THE REVIEW INVESTIGATES– Are Teachers Paid Fairly?


Ione Narajka, News Co-Editor

It seems to be common knowledge that teachers are underpaid. It’s an undervalued profession and teachers get neither the respect nor the attention they deserve. This is true… in most cases. For Aurora Public Schools, it appears that at least the experienced teachers are getting their just desserts. Although, new and inexperienced teachers getting the shortest end of the stick seems to be a universal truth, and in APS it is no exception. 

Rangeview High School has $12 million in its annual budget. Over 50% ($6 million) of this solely goes to staff salaries. That is a lot of money. But we have to consider the fact that Rangeview has about 200 staff members. That $6 million is going to be split 200 ways. That averages to $30,000 per person. That is not exactly something that a lot of people could live off of. 

I will admit this isn’t the best measure, as these are including all staff members, meaning non-teachers are included–like hall monitors–who bring that statistic down because they are paid far less. This isn’t the best way to measure staff salaries due to the outliers, but it makes it clear that it doesn’t stretch as far as it may first appear to. Luckily, there are more accurate charts provided to us by the APS Master Agreement, on page 81. 

Section 1 of chart portraying how teachers are paid in APS
Section 2 of chart portraying how teachers are paid in APS

The top row is for the education a teacher has. BA means Bachelor’s Degree, MA means Master’s Degree, and Doctorate is fairly self explanatory. The numbers are a bit more complicated. The following number, if there is one, is the amount of additional credits they have earned. According to Law Insider, a person who fits somewhere under the MA15 category is a, “Certificated personnel who, in addition to qualifying for a Bachelor’s Degree have earned fifteen graduate level credits in education.” The more college credits and education a teacher has, the more they will be paid, and the further to the right of the table they will be. 

Michael “Max” McGinnis, a Junior at Rangeview, stated, “I think that the idea that teachers get paid more if they have more degrees is a good concept. But even with four degrees, some teachers get paid less than $85k.” 

The left column of the chart is listing the teacher’s experience in education. Most often, only years working in Aurora Public Schools are factored into the equation, though on some occasions, the amount of years worked in other districts can be included. More experience equals more money. As stated beforehand, inexperienced teachers get the short end of the stick. Having no experience results in a smaller salary, and the only way to increase it is to spend money on college or wait patiently for it to increase. 

Jason Oulman teaches English, and has been for 20 years–the last five of them being dedicated to Aurora Public Schools. “I feel like teachers could make more money, but I don’t generally feel as though they’re paid insultingly low amounts of money,” Oulman says. 

Though, he says this perspective has changed in the last five years. Part of it is because that’s how long he’s been in APS, which pays better than his previous school district of Brighton. It is also because he’s been a teacher for 20 years, and has been ‘rising up the ranks,’ so to say. “My first ten years I didn’t make a ton of money, I just made enough to like, get by,” he added. 

He stated multiple times that his experience as a long term teacher is different than others who are newer to the job. “I think that teachers right out of college, or during their first 5-ish years at least, teachers are underpaid, for sure.” 

Esther Neumann just graduated from Metropolitan State University, but last semester she served as a student teacher in Mr. Oulman’s classroom. Despite the apparent downsides to being a teacher, this is the path she chose for herself and she’s sticking with it. She hopes to find a permanent teaching position for herself, but for now, she’s content to be a substitute teacher to explore her options. Neumann is just one person who is joining the education ranks as we are in the midst of a nationwide teacher shortage, a problem that has just been worsened by the pandemic and quarantine. 

According to The 74, “America’s Education News Source” somewhere between an estimated 36,504 and 52,800 teaching positions were vacant as of August 2022. Millions of kids and teenagers, not getting the education they deserve, because there isn’t anybody to teach them. According to the article, there is also an abundance of ‘underqualified’ people in these teaching positions. About 164,000, or 5%, are deemed wrong for the job. Not only are people not applying to become educators, the only options we seem to have are people not entirely fit for the job, although it isn’t listed how they determine if someone is ‘underqualified’ or not. 

Researchers say these issues in understaffing can be due to things like disrespect and restrictions on content, as well as lower wages. McGinnis stated, “I think most people don’t want to put in the time and effort to be paid less than what they should be paid as a teacher.” Another anonymous Junior agreed, adding that better pay might inspire them to “want to continue what they’re doing without feeling burnt out or needing to quit.” High turnaround rates contribute to the shortage, as there aren’t people to replace others when they quit due to high stress levels that come with students. 

Some people understandably have to drop out before they even get to a teacher’s position. Though, most colleges in Colorado have adopted a new rule to try and help encourage aspiring teachers. Previously, being a student teacher was something akin to an “unpaid internship,” according to Neumann and Oulman. It’s not much, but student teachers receive stipends based upon how long they work. For 16 weeks, or half a school year, their monthly checks add up to $11,000. For student teachers working a full school year, or 32 weeks, they receive $22,000. It’s not something a person could live off of, but it’s something to start with rather than nothing, and it’s a step in the right direction. 

The lower pay is certainly contributing to teacher shortages throughout the US, but APS and Colorado seem to be making strides ahead of everyone else to fix it.