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Teacher Starting Salary vs. Annual Amount Spent on Inmates

Some salary comparisons have become cliche. Yes, everyone knows that teachers make a fraction of what famous athletes or movie stars make. Why? Well, while General Chemistry and AP Statistics can be highly interesting, they don’t exactly bring in droves of paying fans. That being said, we found one comparison that is truly alarming – the amount taxpayers spend on a single prisoner annually to the starting salary of teachers.

Let’s compare the two. Inmates commit crimes and in many cases, hurt innocent people, while teachers work hard to educate the most innocent and precious people in our society. The injustice of spending more on criminals than on our nation’s educators is appalling. Not only are there several states that pay significantly more for prisoners per year, but also in total, nearly half of the states either pay more for prisoners or have a minimal difference between the two. Right now, six states spend more annually on their inmates than their teachers. Those states are Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, and Maine. Maine, believe it or not, spends over $17,000 more per inmate than they do per teacher and the salary for teachers is $26,643. For two parents and a child that is almost below the poverty line. These statistics are unacceptable.

Many public libraries across the country have already shortened their hours and numerous schools have done the same or are considering cutting whole school days in order to save money. This tactic would take valuable learning hours away from a child’s school experience, and consequently interrupt a child’s preparation for a prosperous and meaningful life. Yet, people who broke the law (whether or not we agree with the conviction or with those laws), get more money per person than those teaching our future leaders.  Does that make any sense?

One of the reasons teachers leave the profession is because of the low pay. Teachers simply do not get compensated enough for the difficult work that they do. Educating restless young people, working in the bureaucracy of the public school system, and dealing with all of the social issues that come with teaching, is a full-time exhausting job with long hours and grueling expectations. Anyone who has taught for a public school, and even a private one, knows how hard it can be at times. Despite the inherit joys and rewards of teaching, teachers undoubtedly deserve more money for the honorable work that they do.

Every good parent in America wants to give their child the best chance in life. Part of that process is school.  Hiring and retaining excellent teachers is apart of making that goal happen.  How do we expect to keep quality teachers if we barely pay them enough to live? Because at the end of the day regardless of how much teachers love their jobs and their students, they need to be able to eat.


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  1. This article has been hitting the Twitterverse hard in Maine today!

  2. This is very sad that we spend more on crooks than on teachers. We live in very bad times.

  3. Did you see the recent story of an insane killer who escaped while on a field trip to the Washington State Fair? Crazy. True. Insane! What is going on when we spend more money on convicts than the future? Perhaps this is a perpetual cycle…?

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