Low Pay, Endless Paperwork Put Pressure On Teachers

Low Pay, Endless Paperwork Put Pressure On Teachers

By Emily Ketterer

INDIANAPOLIS – Jeremy Noren loved teaching, but the added hours of outside work, the increased paperwork created by constantly changing academic standards and a salary that has fallen behind were the final straws.

After 13 and a half years teaching English at Decatur Central High School, Noren left in 2017 to take a full-time job managing a liquor store.

“I enjoyed it for a really long time,” Noren said. “Teaching is the most misunderstood job, and people don’t understand how much there is constantly nagging at you.”

Having a second or third job is a reality for many teachers in Indiana. Indiana ranks last in teacher salary raises over a 15-year period, according to a study done by Forbes, and the average teacher pay in the state sits around $50,000.

In a recent study done by the Economic Policy Institute, 44 percent of teachers in the country take on extracurricular jobs within their schools, such as coaching, to make extra money, and 18 percent take an outside job.

As a result of the competing demands, teachers are under more stress and fewer people are interested in the profession, said Dawn Miller, principal of Burris Laboratory School at Ball State University’s Teachers College.

“The rigors of the standardized testing, teachers who have second jobs, coaching jobs to try to make a little extra money,” Miller said. “It’s all kind of combining to were not as many people are coming into the profession.”

A few years before he quit teaching, Noren took a part-time job at a liquor store. He said he didn’t take the job because he was desperate for money, but he used his time wisely. While clocked in at the liquor store, he would grade papers and homework, which he wouldn’t have been paid extra for while working after hours at the school.

“I was in a district that paid well in comparison to other districts, but I think as a whole, the pay for the amount of efforts put in is not enough,” Noren said.

He said not only did he have to spend hours grading and providing the good feedback his students deserved, which he said is what teaching should be about, but he had to spend time filling out reports and logs for the administration to track how students fit with state standards.

“Every given week, a teacher is stressed about teaching stuff to you know, 100-something kids, so many of them of are having issues, lots of things to grade,” Noren said. “But at the same time, it’s, ‘Make sure you turn in your ‘do-dee-do’ packet and your ‘blah-blah-blah’ log,’ and also make sure you come to your two meetings this week.”

State lawmakers made promises to raise teacher pay during the 2019 session of the General Assembly but fell short in the eyes of many public-school educators. The state legislature set aside $763 million in new money for K-12 funding, which lawmakers touted as a huge accomplishment.

There is no set amount for teacher salary increases, but Gov. Eric Holcomb got $150 million from the state’s reserves to pay off teacher pension liabilities owed by school districts. The extra money, Holcomb said at the time he announced the proposal, would ideally go to increasing pay for teachers. But the decision remains with local districts.

Indiana also offers teacher appreciation grants, a one-time stipend for teachers who perform as “effective” or “highly effective.” The state’s $34.6 billion two-year budget expands that program, but teachers who have received the grant, like Tom Gayda, who teaches journalism at North Central High School, say most “don’t even blink” at the extra money.

“If you didn’t get it, you wouldn’t really be any worse off,” Gayda said.

Gayda has been teaching for 19 years at North Central High School in Indianapolis. He teaches five journalism classes and more than 80 students. To make extra money, he teaches online classes at Ball State University, and then works at the university’s summer high school journalism workshops.

He questions off-and-on whether he should continue in public education.

“Right now, it’s a little tougher, when it seems like the people who get elected don’t have a clue as to what’s going on,” Gayda said.

The problems today go back to 2012 when Indiana implemented a new teacher evaluation law, he said. Under the law, among other provisions, teachers are paid more based on “good teaching” and on data from how well their students perform according to state standards.

“We’re probably making $12,000-$14,000 less a year than we would have been making,” Gayda said.

Now, teachers in Indiana have had the lowest increase in salaries in the country, only rising by slightly less than $7,000 since 2002. Across the United States, teachers are earning a record 21.4 percent less than other comparable workers, according to the EPI report.

“I don’t think people got into teaching to be rich, but it would be nice to keep up with inflation,” Gayda said.

South of Indianapolis in Johnson County, Franklin Community Schools passed a tax referendum to increase funding for school safety and teacher salaries.

Tony Harris is a special education teacher at Franklin Community High School and the president of the school corporation’s teachers’ union. He said it means a lot that the schools are taking care of teachers after being behind in funding for years. Franklin’s teacher salaries rank low compared to other schools in the state in its county at $50,500.

“We just weren’t where we wanted to be,” Harris said. “We know we’re not going to be one of the highest paid schools in the state, we get that, that’s not a goal for our teachers, but we want to be paid competitively and fairly.”

But pay didn’t necessarily worry Harris, after he left his first career in the business world to teach, he knew he wasn’t going to be rich. He has taken extra jobs in bars over the summer, and he would referee for sporting events.

“I know a couple of teachers who work multiple jobs during the school year, which is crazy,” Harris said. “One does a lot of construction on the side, one works at Lowes.”

During the school year, he coaches the high school soccer team, which adds extra compensation, but he said that’s not why he does it. In the classroom, he said he does take extra hours working past his contracted time to fill out Individualized Education Reports and goals for students.

“Some of that you deal with, it’s just part of the job,” Harris said. “Then, some of it’s like you get to the point where you’re like okay, this is a little much.”

However, the reason why teachers stay in the field is because they want to help students. Gayda said he loves seeing his students get excited about new ideas. Harris enjoys being a mentor.

Even Noren said he still is in contact with former students whose lives he affected.

“I get emails still, you know kids in college saying, ‘Thank you for grading my papers so harshly, now I’m getting great grades in college,’” Noren said. “Knowing that I helped people was a great feeling.”

As for the future for teachers in public education, Gayda said young, prospective teachers should look for jobs outside Indiana.

“I would look to other states,” Gayda said. “I would look to other states where they take care of their teachers and value public education.”

FOOTNOTE:  Emily Ketterer is a reporter at TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.


  1. When I saw “Economic Policy Institute”, immediately alarm bells and whistles went off. Using statistics from such an obviously skewed labor organization makes the entire article questionable. Typical liberal Franklin College journalism piece.

Comments are closed.