Today was a snow day, so I decided to look through some paperwork for my student loans that just went back into repayment. I finished my Master's Degree in June last year and have been slowly receiving all of my repayment information for my loans.
I still have a large chunk left to pay on my undergrad loans, and now with my graduate loans tacked on top, I'm starting to get nervous. And angry.
I got my Master's Degree for two reasons: 1) I felt the need to learn more about the field of Instructional Technology so I could be a better teacher 2) to maintain my PA teaching certificate.
If I didn't attain a Master's Degree or Master's Equivalency by my 5th year of teaching (my Level II certificate) I would have lost my Level I teaching certificate and my job. Now, true I could have just taken a free course here and there or a cheap class when I could, but that's not how I do things, and it just seems like a silly way to improve myself as a teacher.
Part of NCLB states that schools should be filled with highly-qualified teachers. This definition includes that teachers be certified and hold higher degrees. While I don't agree that this model ensures that a teacher is a good teacher, it is a huge part of how teachers are hired and considered qualified to teach. But who is paying for these extra classes?
No other field I know of requires an employee to pay out of pocket to develop their skills or lose their job. Most corporations pay for employee professional development and while many suburban or more affluent districts help teachers pay for their higher education classes, many don't. Philadelphia's public school district offers $1000/yr while funds last, and it does a great job of hiding this initiative on its website. I found out about it in my last semester of school. Did I mention that $1000 didn't even pay for one course?
I did get a tiny bump in pay when I filed all of my Master's Degree paperwork with the state (a few hundred dollars a paycheck), but nothing that could cover the extra $360/month I now owe for my degree.
Again, I could have made a choice to take free courses (there aren't any in Instructional Technology) or I could have gone to a different school (I chose the only school in the area that offers the degree) or I could have chosen a cheap online program just to satisfy the requirement. But would that have truly made me a better (highly qualified!) teacher? I doubt it.
So now I owe about as much as I make in one year to student loan companies and the Federal government.
Is it really such a surprise why teachers deserve to be paid more? I have more education that many people I know, I make at least $10,000 less than they do and I owe more than I'm worth.
Most teachers say "I'm not in it for the money." I say this tongue-in-cheek all the time. But why do we have this attitude toward a profession that is molding the future of our country and our world? Why shouldn't we be as proud as CEOs and corporate employees about our paychecks?
Some resources on loan forgiveness:
Forgiveness of principal balance for public employees
Forgiveness for 5 years working in Title I school