Tuesday was National Teacher Day, part of Teacher Appreciation Week, but the tone this year is more consequential than boxes of candy or #ThankATeacher posts on social media.
Across the nation — from Arizona to Kentucky, Colorado to West Virginia — teachers are holding rallies, walking out, even going on strike. They are fighting back after years of low pay and education budget cuts, and successfully turning the tide in some areas.
Many teachers work long hours yet earn modest salaries for all they do in guiding our children to become productive members of society. We should be thanking them every day and especially this week, but we also can be doing more.
Teachers deserve our political support as they rally against underfunded programs, stagnant pay, rising student loan debt and constant criticism from pundits who have never been in a classroom. As we cast votes in primary elections and again in November, we should hold candidates accountable for their support of education, or lack thereof.
This nation expects its teachers to test, teach and then test some more; to parent when parents aren’t doing the job; to convey tolerance and teamwork and empathy and other values that may get short shrift at home. And when something fails, it is always the teacher’s fault.
Meanwhile, teachers earn about 30 percent less than other college graduates, the Learning Policy Institute says. Those earning a master’s degree in education had an average of $50,879 in student loan debt, a 2014 study found. The starting salary for a public-school teacher in America averaged $38,617 in 2016-17, according to the National Education Association.
With at least 17 percent of new teachers leaving the profession within their first five years, it’s no surprise that we have a teacher shortage. The Learning Policy Institute surveyed 25 school districts in California and found 80 percent had a shortage of qualified teachers last fall, with 82 percent hiring underprepared teachers.
So yes, give your child’s teacher a certificate of appreciation this week, share photos on social media with the hashtag #ThankATeacher, and post a photo of you and your favorite childhood teacher on Throw Back Thursday, as the National PTA suggests.
Just don’t forget in November to vote for candidates who will give teachers the resources they need to educate our nation — and to feel fulfilled doing it.