Sporadic Notes: Teachers in an empire

us teachers

Facts force out myths.

The following facts narrate condition of a part of teachers, students and an education system in a society that overflows with resources.

A survey of teachers, 1,038 in total, from 45 US states, conducted in July 6-10, 2019, found:

Ninety-six percent of teachers surveyed pay for school supplies for their students. (Fishbowl, “96 percent of teachers personally pay for supplies for students”, July 16, 2019)

All the teachers surveyed – 100% – in Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Washington had purchased student’s supplies.

The money spent is not only for pencils and notebooks, but also for something else, as some of the students can’t afford the “something else”. May be, that’s a coat.

A teacher from California questioned the realty: “Is this normal?” The teacher’s anticipation: “This isn’t sustainable.”

In 2018, the US Department of Education (DoE) found almost the same:

Ninety-four percent of public school teachers spent their money on school supplies without reimbursement. (CNN, “94% of teachers […] supplies”, May 15, 2018)

The survey by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the DoE collected data during 2014-2016.

In case of charter school teachers, the percentage was 88.

In case of elementary school teachers, it’s 95% while it’s 93% in case of secondary school teachers.

Teachers in cities spent more, on average, than teachers in suburbs, towns or rural areas.

Another report from the Economic Policy Institute – Lower Relative Pay and High Incidence of Moonlighting Play a Role in the Teacher Shortage, Particularly in High-poverty Schools (May 9, 2019) – states:

Financial hardships in teaching are real; and the pay is too low and declining. Taking into account education, experience, and other factors known to affect earnings, teachers’ weekly wages in 2018 were 21.4 percent lower than their nonteaching peers. Their wage penalty – how much less teachers earn in weekly wages than similar college graduates (i.e., after accounting for education, experience, and other factors known to affect earnings) – has grown over time.

The report said: In the 2015-2016 school year, 59.0 percent of teachers took on additional paid work either within school system or outside of it, which was 55.6 percent in the 2011-2012. A majority of moonlighters (44.1%) was taking on second jobs within school system, e.g., coaching, student activity sponsorship, mentoring other teachers, or teaching evening classes; 18.2 percent were working outside of school system; and 5.7 percent were receiving compensation based on student performance.

Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), the largest international survey of teachers involving more than 250,000 teachers in grades seven to nine and school leaders from 48 countries, presents further facts:

Teachers in the US worked for an average of 46 hours total each week, which was longer than or comparable to educators in all but two other countries.

The study found problems related to teachers in the US are worse than teachers in many other countries are.

Based on data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and Current Population Survey, a study found teachers’ increasing inability to find affordable housing. (Chris Salviati, “Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Teachers Increasingly Struggle with Housing Affordability”, Rentonomics, Apartment List, May 9, 2019)

It said:

Housing costs burden one-in-five primary earner teachers. Rapid increases in housing costs have exacerbated the struggle of teachers. Nationally, 19.9 percent of households in which a teacher is the primary-earner are burdened by housing costs. This is 21.3 percent higher than the cost burden rate for households where the primary earner is a non-teacher with a college degree. This gap has widened substantially over time; in 1990, the cost burden rate for teachers was actually 15 percent lower than that of college-educated non-teachers. While the cost burden rate for non-teachers fell by 2.7 percent from 1990 to 2017, the rate for teachers increased by 38.8 percent.”

The study said:

“Between 1990 and 2017, the share of teachers who report working more than 50 hours per week increased by 43 percent, the share who report being at work during the summer increased by 46 percent, and the share who report working at least 50 weeks per year increased by 17 percent.”

“[A] majority of teachers”, the study said, “work year-round, and multiple measures point to teachers working more than ever.”

According to the study, this additional work may be the result of teachers supplementing incomes by spending more time at second jobs. Despite working more, the average share of teachers’ total income coming from primary teaching job has remained relatively stable over time.

These metrics, said the study, “paint a picture of increasing workloads” of the US teachers.

According to the study, “the magnitude of the pay gap between teachers and other college-educated professionals is striking. In 2017, the median income for teachers with bachelor’s degrees in grade 1-12 classrooms was $45,000, which is 27.4 percent less than the median income of full-time workers with Bachelor’s degrees employed in non-teaching professions.”  Top of Form

Bottom of Form


Along with these, class-size is turning bigger.

These findings mean:

Over-work, lower pay, extra-expenditure, increased hardship for teachers.

These mean:

  1. quality of instruction suffers;
  2. the economy prefers instruction of this quality;
  3. the economy doesn’t feel compelled to provide a better condition for teachers and students.

These tell something about an economy, an empire, and about the economy’s politics as the mainstream education system is everywhere always connected to the economy that dominates, and, consequently, to the politics that the dominating economy produces. And, the facts bust the myth – the economy all the time acquires affluence for all.

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.


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