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COLUMN: Teachers deserve to be paid more for the work they do

Imagine you’re a new college graduate with a degree in secondary education. Thanks to your student teaching placement, you have a job lined up. You couldn’t be more excited to teach a seventh-grade class. 

Something lingers in the back of your mind, though, when you see your starting salary of $36,620 -- your $37,172 in college debt

Balancing rent, utilities, insurance bills and your debt won’t be easy. Tacking on a car bill or a mortgage seems nearly impossible. 

While the average starting salary for a person with a bachelor’s degree is $50,556, the starting salary for teachers is nearly $15,000 less than that. 

Teachers are educating our next generation. Why are they getting paid so little? 

Teachers ultimately do their job for their communities. In a report from Scholastic, 98 percent of teachers from Michigan said their profession is about making a difference in the world, and 85 percent said they do their job to make a difference in their students’ lives. 

A typical school day is six to seven hours long, but teachers work much longer days than that. When we begin to factor in grading, getting to school early to make sure everything is prepped for the day, going to meetings and making lesson plans, teachers work about 53 hours a week, according to the same Scholastic report. That is about 13 hours of overtime per week.

Outside of school, teachers must also balance their home life, just the same as other professionals. Many are working to support a family, but when they have to do so much extra work outside of the classroom, it's not always the easiest thing to do. 

A misconception about teaching is that it is an “easy” job. Teaching is by no means easy. Demands and standards are constantly changing for teachers, and as the teacher shortage continues to be an issue across the country, teachers must deal with larger class sizes. 

The average classroom size in Michigan is about 27 kids per classroom, according to a survey from Michigan Radio. However, 69 percent of teachers said their classroom size continues to grow. Michigan is one of the 15 states that don't have laws limiting classroom size. 

One of my friends who is a teacher said that she teaches 161 students across many different classes, both Advanced Placement and standard high school courses. 

An expectation and goal of many teachers is to connect with their students, and be able to work with them individually. When a teacher is balancing 161 students with classroom sizes of about 27 students, that expectation is not always realistic. 

I believe teachers are not making enough for the amount of work they do. 

The average teacher salary in Michigan is $61,978 according to the Department of Education. This takes into account both the highest paid teachers and the lowest. 

In reality, a teacher would need to teach for about 20 years before they reach this salary, according to the National Center for Education Statistics

To compare, those who earn a bachelor's degree in business and get a job as a marketing or sales manager in Michigan make about $134,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

For the same amount of school, a business major makes a little over double the salary of the average teacher. Something about this picture is not right. 

Yes, teachers do their job to have an impact on their students. Does that mean they shouldn’t be making a reasonable living? 

Let's face the facts. Teachers deserve more credit, and higher wages, than they are receiving now. 

We need to invest in education and our teachers.