Financial pressure for teachers is deeper than classroom supplies

Administrators can be a powerful force for change by advocating for affordable continuing professional education and helping to retain teachers
By: | October 28, 2020
Photo by Alexander Schimmeck via Unsplash.

Callie McGill oversees content partnerships for LendingTree.

It’s well-known: Teachers rarely have all the supplies they need, so they regularly dip into their own pockets to cover expenses. Yet, this problem is deeper than classroom decor and supplies. They are also burdened with expensive certification requirements that ultimately creates a “pay-to-play” system to earn their contracts and raises. The stress of this likely contributes to the profession’s five-year turnover rate.

It’s time for school administrators to figure out how they can help alleviate some of that financial stress.

Common financial stressors for teachers

According to reports from the National Education Association, teachers earn 21% less than similarly educated peers in other professions. On top of that, first-year teacher salaries are less than $40,000 in 63% of school districts.

More than 40% of new teachers quit the profession within their first five years, according to University of Pennsylvania research. Although teachers quit for many reasons, the biggest one is dissatisfaction with the profession— but low compensation also plays a part. Teachers might be paying off student loan debt—which averages $22,517 per graduate—and footing the bill for classroom supplies plus their own continuing education.

How administrators can help with teacher expenses

While higher salaries can alleviate these problems, administrators have very little control over salary increases. However, administrators can be a powerful force for change by reducing out-of-pocket expenses, advocating for more continuing professional education (CPE) opportunities, and serving as a resource for new teachers.

Boost school-funded CPE opportunities

Some school districts require teachers to take 150 hours of CPE credits every few years as a requirement of maintaining their certifications. And while many school districts have fairly open standards for what can count as a CPE credit, most educators are forced to meet the requirement through paid coursework from colleges and universities.


Related: Why teacher morale relies on clarity, competence and community


Prices per course can vary, but teachers often have to pay several hundred dollars per course to get the required CPE credits they need, making it difficult and expensive to maintain their certificates.

Administrators can help reduce this burden by offering more opportunities to earn CPE credits at no cost. In recent months, most school districts have shown they can adapt to digital environments. Now is a great time for administrators to explore ways to offer CPE credits through digital workshops at no cost to teachers.

Providing these opportunities can help reduce the financial stress from teachers and ultimately, keep them in the profession for the long term.

Options for lower-income districts

Many school districts won’t have the funding to offset these digital workshops, but administrators can help teachers research ways to decrease their debt and subsidize the cost of coursework.

The federal teacher loan forgiveness program is still available, for example, yet many teachers may not realize it’s an option. The government may forgive up to $17,500 in federal student loan debt for teachers working in low-income schools. Additionally, many school districts, states, and private organizations will subsidize the cost of courses taken toward recertification.


Read: How will the 2020 Biden-Trump election impact K-12?


And while it’s easy to assume that all teachers understand how to manage their income, nearly 50% of college students feel they lack proper financial literacy. New teachers whose college debts have suddenly come due may not know how to proceed and may leave the profession due to the financial stresses they face. Hosting financial education workshops can help equip new teachers with the resources they need to manage debts in the early stages of their careers.

By showing your teachers that their career progressions and development are important, you can help retain them and reduce their financial stressors, allowing them to focus on their students.

Final thought

Right now is a difficult time for those working in education, as 1 in 6 teachers said they’ve worked a side job to help make ends meet. If that isn’t an option right now, it may feel impossible to pursue education credits. Fall enrollment is down 15% for post-baccalaureate classes.

That’s why it’s important for administrators to practice compassion and look at the overall performance of teachers when assessing contracts.

Callie McGill oversees content partnerships for LendingTree. She earned her B.A. in Advertising from Penn State University and her work has been published on Yahoo! News, MSN and more.