Our pay scale was frozen in 2008, which we were told was “temporary.” While there have been a few raises since then, none have come close to the 3 percent yearly cost of living increases typically found in Central Virginia.
Since the freeze, staff turnover has increased dramatically, fewer schools have reached accreditation, and class sizes have increased. We’ve also got seventh-graders using history textbooks printed in George W. Bush’s first year in office, buildings leak, and department budgets have not increased since the 1990s.
Although I’m halfway through my 28th year of teaching, I’m still being paid like I just finished year 16. I’ve had to take on additional responsibilities just to make ends meet. At one point, I was seventh-grade team leader, history department head, athletic director, and communications director for the school’s TV studio. I also got my CDL to drive sports teams, taught history, started my own construction business, and was president of the LEA all at the same time. I’m still doing all these jobs, except for athletic director. It is not uncommon for me to work seven days a week.
And I’m not alone in this. There are at least three people in my building who have their contractor’s licenses. We have another five who work retail. We have others who own their own businesses. We have musicians, beauticians, and artisans. What we don’t have are people living comfortably on what they earn as an educator. We don’t have people who have the weekends and evenings to rest, recharge, and better plan the next day’s lessons. We don’t have people willing to stay in this demanding profession for more than a few years before moving on to greener pastures.