Back to School, Educator Discounts, Respecting our Educators, Teacher Salaries, Uncategorized

Where Are the Educator Discounts?

My husband and I just finished our first week back to school for the 2017/18 school year, and we are exhausted!  I slept for twelve hours last night.  I am back in 1st grade for the third year in a row, and Al is now working in an ESE classroom, which is a huge challenge, and takes a lot of patience.  Each year seems to take more energy and more money.

When I started teaching, I was in love with the profession.  I always wanted to be a teacher when I was growing up.  I remember being 5 or 6, and playing school with my friends.  My mother taught me to read before going to kindergarten.  By the time I got to college, I was having second thoughts, and delayed making my decision, but I finally made the decision to go that direction.  Through all of the positions I’ve had, I have loved my students and the challenges presented to me each day.  But it’s harder now. Financially, it’s killing us.

What can be done to help those of us who are struggling financially?  We have all heard the testimonies of teachers who spend their own money to resource their classrooms. Some of us know about how high the health insurance premiums for educators are, and the health risks of being an educator.  My own district right now is at an impasse over our contracts from last year, denying us a raise of any value.  What happens with this is that when our insurance premiums go up (they do every year), our take home pay goes down because the minimal raises we receive don’t cover the cost (we worked all of last year with no raise so far).  I made less money last year than the year before, and will most likely make less this year than last. Currently, I make what I made twenty years ago, and was able to support a family of five.  Now that it’s just the two of us (and an aging dog), it isn’t enough because everything is more expensive.  It isn’t a unique situation.  It happens all over the United States.  A lot of teachers have extra jobs just to pay the bills.  Professionals having to tend bar, wait tables, or work at a big box store to make ends meet should not be happening.

One solution that would help this is for teachers to receive educator discounts, much like the military or senior citizens.  And before anyone comes at me for being anti-military, stop right there.  I’m not saying that the military doesn’t deserve it.  They do….but so do we.  Some places, such as book stores, have an educator discount, but sometimes there are stipulations that it has to be spent on educational items.  Sometimes during Teacher Appreciation Week, restaurants might offer a discount to teachers.  Why should there be any restrictions on how we receive the discounts?  There are no restrictions on military or senior citizens.  Many times, I’ve been asked by a cashier if I’m “military” for a discount.  I tell them I’m not, but I ask about an educator discount.  They look at me with a blank stare, and tell me there isn’t one, but then agree with me that there should be.

Without teachers, there is nothing.  There is no military, no law enforcement, no medical or legal profession.  Why don’t we deserve discounts on retail, restaurants, insurance, utilities, auto financing, and home mortgages?  We deserve it!  Teachers are the hardest working people I know.  We should not have to have second jobs to just stay afloat. There should be educator discounts across the board, for anything we spend, much like the military. I promise it will not break any company to do this, and will most likely help their business if they show respect to our profession.  We earn it.  We deserve it.  We NEED it.

I am going to be asking businesses and companies to start offering educator discounts. I am inviting other educators and individuals to join me in this.  Let’s start showing respect for this profession, and those who dedicate their lives to it.

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Back to School, Respecting our Educators, Teacher Salaries, Uncategorized

Back to School…..and the Poor House!

Well, it’s that time of year again…..back to school!  I’ve seen the displays in the stores since right after the 4th of July, which I believe is way too early.  When I was younger, school didn’t start until late August, or sometimes (depending on where I was living), after Labor Day.

Getting school supplies was always a high point when I was a child.  I would take them home and organize them, and my mother would write my name on everything, in her beautiful handwriting.  I remember taking my own children to get their school supplies, and letting them pick out their notebooks, folders, pencils, lunchboxes, backpacks, etc. Excitement was in the air!

As an educator, I still have to buy school supplies.  I usually wait for the tax free holiday to save some extra money.  You see, I teach in a title school, and most of my students can’t afford supplies.  I buy extra, and try to stock up during the back to school sales, to get through the whole year…..extra boxes of crayons, glue, paper, scissors, pencils, erasers, highlighters, dry erase markers, folders, 3-ring binders, tissues……and so on.  That doesn’t include the trips to the teacher supply store, buying new charts and classroom decorations.  Elementary school teachers need to make their classrooms appealing, inviting, fun, and colorful.  It needs to be a happy, friendly environment for our students. I could easily spend $500 on this.  Then throughout the year, I have to replace these items, and buy more supplies.  I can spend over $1000 every year just on my classroom.

Here’s the problem….in case you aren’t aware, teachers don’t make a lot of money. Currently, my district has yet to settle on our contracts for the year we just finished, and now we are going into another year, working on a contract that is two years old.  This is quite normal, so I’m not criticizing just my district.  It’s the whole establishment.  With increasing insurance premiums, some of us make less money each year without our cost of living raises.  I’ve been in this profession for 27 years, and currently make what I made 20 years ago.

Times are hard. I saw a teacher on the news this week who took to the streets with a sign (much like homeless people do), requesting funds for her classroom.  I thought it was a brilliant idea, but why should we have to swallow our pride, and stand out in the 100 degree heat to have enough money for our classrooms?  We are college educated professionals.  It shouldn’t be this way.

My district pays us in June for the whole summer.  We won’t receive another paycheck until September 15th.  If there are any unexpected expenses throughout the summer, it can set you back, and leave you short of funds.  In my case, I have had health issues the last two summers, resulting in medical bills not covered by our insurance.  Where will we find money to pay for our living expenses?  House payment?  Car loans?  Medical bills?  Utilities?  Oh, and then there’s those school supplies that everyone expects us to buy…..  We don’t have it.

I once had a school board president tell me that teachers are not the “sharpest tools in the shed” because if we were, we would have chosen a career that paid better.  He inherited his position as president of a manufacturing company, and I was apparently sharp enough to teach his son, but he didn’t have any respect for me or the profession! This was one of the most disrespectful comments I have ever heard when it comes to educators, and from a board president, no less.

I won’t go into detail of how packed our days are at school.  That would take entirely too long.  My day starts at 4 AM, and it’s an exhausting day!  Let’s just say if we were paid what we are worth (education, experience, professionalism), none of us would be struggling financially, or begging for supplies or financial assistance.  And maybe we/I wouldn’t have health problems if I weren’t worried constantly about finances.  Yes, we get our summers off, but a lot of us are working 2 or 3 other jobs during this time to make ends meet.  And, with health problems, it makes it hard to work another full time job in the summer.

Something needs to give when it comes to teacher salary.  The powers that be need to start respecting the profession, and those who have dedicated so much of themselves to educating our future.  My bank account can’t afford this, and neither can my health.