- Parker Williams, a 9-year-old elementary school student in Florida, made local news after giving his birthday money to his teacher.
- Williams attempted to give his teacher a $15 pay bump because he thought “teachers don’t get paid enough.”
- Statistics show teachers get paid 21% less than similar jobs that require a college degree, contributing to a nationwide teacher shortage and swelling class sizes.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A boy in Florida got $15 for his ninth birthday – and gave it all to his teacher.
Parker Williams, an elementary school student in the third grade, gave his elementary school teacher a pay raise using his own gift money, WFLA-TV reported. Williams attached a note to his gift which read, “Dear Mrs. Chambers, I don’t think that teachers get paid enough for what they do, so, will you accept this gift?”
While Williams meant well with his charitable act, the fact that he gave away his money to his teacher signals how dire the teacher pay crisis in America has become.
The median teacher salary for kindergarten and elementary school teachers in the US is under $60,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though the figure varies depending on seniority and the school.
Today, a teacher’s salary is comparable to an event planner or personal trainer, as Business Insider’s Melanie Weir points out. But unlike those professions, teaching requires at least an undergraduate education – yet the job earns 21% less on average than other jobs that require a bachelor’s degree. Thirty years ago, the pay gap was just 2% less.
The skyrocketing cost of education to become an educator – coupled with the low pay of the job – means many teachers also carry significant student loan debt. One survey found over half of 2,000 teacher respondents were “very worried” to “terrified” about not being able to pay off loans. And while the Department of Education is supposed to forgive loans for public servants after 10 years, the American Teachers Federation sued the federal government for violating that mandate, NPR reported in July.
The low pay contributes to the nationwide teacher shortage facing the US. Since the 2008 Great Recession, the country has struggled to hire enough teachers to keep up with the growing student population. Currently, the US needs about 307,000 more educators to meet demand.
Without enough teachers, class sizes swell, and educators told Business Insider they must work after school and on weekends to keep up with the classwork. Frustrations over pay and class sizes have led to nationwide teacher protests in the last two decades, most recently in Chicago.
Though Williams’s teacher returned his birthday money, the 9-year-old told WFLA-TV he doesn’t regret offering her a pay bump.
“Well, I think she’s a really kind teacher, and she has her own way of teaching and she spends time on everybody,” Parker told local reporters. “I think more people should be nice.”