Teachers’ Salaries: The Ongoing Debate


Grace Daniel

Teachers are known to be paid very little considering all the work they put into their careers (Grace Daniel).

In South Carolina, the controversy about teachers’ salaries continues to rage on after years of dispute. Teachers in South Carolina have relatively low salaries compared to other careers, and many people believe that they aren’t paid nearly enough for all the important work they do. Despite constant discussion, their salaries continue to remain low. After years of debating the issue, the question still remains: should South Carolina teachers be paid more?

“My mom is a teacher, and I know she doesn’t get paid enough for all the work she puts into her job. Teachers are so important, but their salaries don’t reflect it at all,” says sophomore Maddie Gagne.

Teachers are forming the next generation. They are responsible for educating students for their future careers, yet their jobs are consistently extremely low paying. Despite this low pay, they are the reason getting a job in this society is possible. Teachers work daily to help students learn, grow, and prepare for the real world.

“In my opinion, teachers have by far the most important job. Without them, you would have no doctors, no officers, no lawyers, or any other important careers,” says sophomore Sakina Naqvi.

Despite their undoubted importance to society, teachers are almost always underpaid, especially compared to other professions. South Carolina teachers get paid an average of about $48,000 per year; this is about $16,000 less than the average architect, $34,000 less than the average attorney, and $22,000 less than the average physical therapist.

“Teachers are especially underpaid compared to athletes, who get paid millions just to be our daily entertainment. They do so much for us, and in many cases go unrecognized,” says Gagne.

Many believe that teachers’ salaries should be determined directly from their experience and that teachers with higher levels of education should receive a higher income. In other words, since teachers gain experience every year that they teach, the longer they teach a certain subject should be reflected in their salary.

“As teachers, we develop new skills every year. I know that every year I have gained more knowledge about how to be a better teacher. As we teach the students, we also learn from and about them. Salaries should definitely compensate for all the experience we gain,” says Brashier Middle College science teacher Sharon Worthen.

In South Carolina, average school days last about seven hours. Many teachers spend anywhere from 2 to 5 hours working at school after those seven hours, and most spend even more time working on school related tasks at home.

“The time investment is a lot more than people think. I know that their incomes don’t reflect how many hours teachers put into their jobs. It’s very underestimated,” says spanish teacher Mary Donohue.

A survey found that 94% of people polled agree that teachers should be paid more. Even though so many people agree, teachers continue to be underpaid. Their importance is not reflected in their salaries; a raise in salary would most likely lead to more appreciation and attention towards teachers. Even though this will probably raise taxes, many people believe it will be worth the slight increase.

“All the teachers that I know – and I – have to pay for all the courses that are required for our certification, and also supplies we want to use in our classroom. Our salaries don’t allow enough extra money to pay for those things. We don’t receive enough income for all the money we put into our jobs,” says Worthen.

Due to the small amount of money being devoted to teachers, many teachers go unappreciated and fewer people are attracted to the teaching field. This makes it harder for schools to hire high quality teachers because they have a small pool of educators to choose from.

“If teachers, along with other professions like firefighters and police officers, were paid more, they would be more valued. If teachers had a higher income, it would attract more young people in college to go into the education field,” says Donohue.

South Carolina determines teachers’ incomes by county. While increasing taxes to pay for teachers’ salaries may sound like the ideal solution, it is not necessarily practical for some impoverished areas. One possible solution is to have the state of South Carolina fund their incomes. State funding will help to pay educators in low-income areas a more fair amount corresponding with higher-income districts.

“Teachers’ incomes should definitely be determined by county, because some counties in South Carolina are impoverished and a tax increase wouldn’t be practical for them. I think that the state should contribute more to salaries, which wouldn’t put as much financial stress on low-income areas,” says Worthen.

The opinion on this controversy is overwhelming; millions of people agree that teachers are underpaid considering how much of their time and effort they pour into educating the next generation. Despite the lengthy history, the discussion continues with few solutions offered to the problem. Teachers are vital to the world; without them to educate society, the world would fall into complete disarray.

“I think we should focus on thanking our teachers more for all their hard work, because I don’t think their salaries thank them enough. They do so much for the world and there would be no careers and no economy without them. They are so important and should definitely be paid more to show that,” says Naqvi.