“I thought this just happened to me.”
That’s the refrain from dozens of teachers who reached out to NPR — via email and social media — in response to our investigative story about serious problems with a federal grant program that, they say, have left them unfairly saddled with thousands of dollars of debts they shouldn’t have to pay.
Surprising results from a new survey of teachers reveal the depth of “financial strain” classroom professionals face. These include high levels of college debt, stagnation of already subpar pay, increasing housing and childcare costs, rising health insurance premiums and prescription costs, and escalating out-of-pocket expenses for their own classroom supplies.
More than half of the respondents resorted to second jobs to try to close the gap between what their teaching jobs paid versus their actual cost of living.
The revelation teachers are financially struggling wasn’t what was surprising about the survey. Recent news of teacher “red-state rebellions” in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona have brought great depths of attention to the economic plight of teachers who are walking off the job in Republican dominated states because of years of education funding cuts. No, what was surprising about this survey was the teachers weren’t in a red state at all; they were in true-blue Vermont.
The sad truth is financial austerity that has driven governments at all levels to skimp on education has had plenty of compliance, if not downright support, from centrist Democrats who’ve spent most of their political capital on pressing an agenda of “school reform” and “choice” rather than pressing for increased funding and support that schools and teachers need.