There is, once again, a nationwide debate going on surrounding teacher pay.
Teachers in West Virginia held a statewide strike that shuttered schools there for two weeks until Gov. James C. Justice signed a bill giving them a 5 percent pay raise. Oklahoma teachers have threatened to walk out if they do not get a $10,000 raise over the next three years, according to KFOR.
But a recent Facebook post from an Arizona elementary school teacher rose above the noise to illustrate the working conditions for those who teach in one of the least friendly states for teachers.
Elisabeth Milich, who teaches at Whispering Wind Academy in the Paradise Valley Unified School District, makes $35,621 per year after getting a $131 pay increase following her latest round of professional development classes, according to KSAZ. She told McClatchy she was running low on cash the last time she ran an errand to buy classroom supplies and posted the photo of her annual salary figure out of exasperation, during a time Arizona teachers are mobilizing after West Virginia’s teachers’ example.
“That’s $639 every two weeks,” Milich told the news station. “It’s not liveable.”
Milich took down her Facebook post after she started getting more and more negative feedback from commenters who thought that the pay rate she posted was from 1998, due to a line that read, “Issue date: 1998.”
That line actually refers to the year her teaching certificate was issued, not the date the $35,621 salary was effective. Milich has been teaching in the district for seven years.
“I obviously would have cut the date out of the photo if I had known the post would go so haywire,” said Milich, who has received dozens of denigrating messages on Facebook after the post.
“I really need a college degree to make this?” Milich asked in the original post, according to KPNX. “The reality is, without my husband’s income, I could never be an educator in this state.
“Something must be done, otherwise our poor children will be taught by unqualified, burned out and just plain bad teachers.”
According to the Arizona Republic, citing analysis from Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, Arizona’s 2016 elementary school teacher average salary, when adjusting for cost of living, was $42,474. That’s the worst in the nation.
Oklahoma was 49th in the nation, at $43,192, adjustsed for cost of living, while West Virginia was 40th, at $50,956, adjusted for cost of living.
Wallethub also ranked Arizona dead last in the U.S. on its 2017 list of states best and worst for teachers, finding that the state was 46th in highest teacher turnover, 49th in highest pupil-teacher ratio and 48th in lowest public-school spending per student.
“If I were in state politics in Arizona, that would embarrass me,” Milich said.