By Aimee Picchi / MoneyWatch
The teacher crisis has been brewing for more than a decade. The recession hurt local tax receipts, which led to a cut in school funding and teacher layoffs. Nationally, teacher pay is 1.6 percent below their average earnings in 1999 and 5 percent lower than their 2009 pay, adjusted for inflation, according to the Department of Education.
“When you work at a second job just to keep your job, the appeal to leave for a field higher paying is much higher,” said Lisette Partelow of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. “It’s a problem that has been building for a long time.”
It’s not only pay and pension funding that’s at stake, but classroom overcrowding. Teachers are effectively earning less than they did in the past two decades while being asked to do more, policy experts say.
Public school enrollment rose 3 percent from 2006 to 2016, while the number of teachers has declined by 1 percent since then. Many districts never rehired staff after they cut positions in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, leading to the current crunch, said Partelow.
Kentucky’s state capitol filled with teachers on Monday who protested pension changes, while Oklahoma educators walked out of their classrooms despite a measure that will give them pay raises of about $6,100.
Some Oklahoma teachers said it isn’t enough, citing a lack of supplies for students and poor school conditions. State funding in Oklahoma for K-12 schools has declined 15.6 percent since 2008 on a per-student basis, according to the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
It’s just one of 29 states that have cut state funding during that time, according to its analysis.
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