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Student Success is Not Always Equitable

In many parts of America, a worker at Starbucks serving coffee can make a higher salary than a public school teacher. For example, in 2022, the average teacher salary in Mississippi was slightly above 45,000 dollars (“Teacher Pay by State 2022”). On the other hand, the average cashier at Costco makes about 46,000 a year. Many southern and western states are very similar in low pay and pension. These teacher salaries are just the average in the state, and their starting salaries are often much lower, forcing them to work side jobs to make ends meet. How can future teachers be attracted to occupations where they can barely survive? States have to be willing to pay their teachers more, or they will not attract the best teachers.

Education is a noble profession, and teachers are some of the biggest inspirations a student can have; however, in order to do this, great educators are needed in the classroom. Many potential qualified teachers do not even consider regions such as the Midwest or the South. The most able graduates are attracted to the higher-paying regions, which causes the supply and competitiveness of teaching jobs in those states to increase and the quality of teachers to be higher (Ordway). The impact of having high-quality educators is apparent. Mississippi is the state with the lowest average teacher salary. It also remains the poorest state in the U.S., with the highest poverty rate and the lowest average household income. The unattractive pay in Mississippi has caused a teacher shortage crisis that has lasted for more than 20 years, leaving teachers teaching subjects where they are not qualified. Kaitlyn Barton, a teacher who taught in one of Mississippi’s poorest districts, said that the lack of opportunities and the low pay eventually caused her to move to Texas in search of better opportunities. In Texas, she no longer has to work a second job as a waitress, and she makes more than the $23,000 she made in Mississippi (Betz). Good teachers need incentives to stay and apply for the job in the first place. If not, certain regions of the country will continue to have the weakest caliber of teachers, tremendously impacting our future generation.

Although many states have tried different methods to boost teacher pay, there is still a shortage of teachers. Nevertheless, there are many potential solutions to this problem. Some states pay their teachers such low wages that the federal government needs to step in. This is especially important in poorer states where they can’t rely on taxing their citizens and remain in constant cycles of poverty. Another possible solution would be paying teachers better based on evaluations and if they stayed in the same district for a long time. This would help avoid constant turnover, and give current teachers an incentive to continue performing well. One more proposed idea to the teaching shortage crisis in certain subjects and states is local governments and school districts partnering with local or state universities to give more jobs to their graduates with teaching degrees. This way, more people in poorer states will be motivated to go to college to get a teaching degree and feel more comfortable in the classroom.


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