Pay…or lack thereof

Posted on May 18, 2018

Pay…or lack thereof

Teacher pay is a big issue in Colorado and the Bennett household. As a wealthy and booming state, the fact that we are 46th in school funding is a disgrace. Following teachers in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma and elsewhere, my wife and her fellow teachers staged walkouts a few weeks ago. Let me be VERY clear, teachers need to be paid more and we must adequately fund education.

Yet, where are the voices of the rest of the helping professionals who make sustainably less than teachers with worst benefits? For the complexity and stress inherent to the work of helping, our pay is downright shameful. While it is easy to shrug off that our pay is a result of our communities not valuing the poor, mentally ill, disabled, and struggling in our community, does our silence do a disservice to ourselves and those we serve?

Teachers in Colorado walked out primarily to draw attention to our offensive approach to educational funding and secondarily for their own salaries. Many of these efforts, unfortunately not yet in Colorado, forced legislators to act to bring funding and wages up to adequate, if not ideal, levels. At least some states fund education and teacher salaries adequately. Is there anyone who works with the homeless or in-home healthcare, public health, child welfare, disabilities, or psychiatric inpatient care who is appropriately compensated for their work?

I admit, walking out of many of our jobs would carry potentially dangerous consequences for those we serve, our organizations (which are rarely to blame for what they can pay), and our communities, but are these consequences anymore devastating than the long-term impact that low wages, high turnover, and underfunding programming is having on those needing help? If a walkout would do harm, who is doing the harm? I would argue the blame lies firmly on those in positions of policy-making power or our communities that undervalue our work, clients, and patients. The example of teachers challenges us, whether we walk out or take another form of action, to find our collective voice and take to the streets demanding action and social justice concerning funding and salaries.

People are activated right now! Those who never took to the streets in protest are now comfortable publicly standing up for their beliefs. I can not think of a better time to organize and fight, first for those we serve and second for our ability to earn a comfortable living following our passion for helping those in need.

6 responses to “Pay…or lack thereof”

  1. Sarah Felix Burns says:

    Couldn’t agree more! But it would be difficult to do a walkout when our services are already so underfunded, undervalued and always at risk of having funding cut. There’s got to be another way.

  2. Terry Barlow says:

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! I joined forces for part of the walk-out day here in Aurora with the teachers at one of the intersections. It is absolutely a disgrace. Ironically, my pay is considerably less than a teacher’s salary in this city. I’ve thought about this issue myself and I don’t know where to begin but I appreciate that you have said out loud what many in the serving field have felt. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it. But with our skill sets, in a for-profit world, most of us would likely make twice as much as we earn. Not the reason we do it, absolutely, but we do have to pay our bills in an economy that has, in a sense, forced us to take a pay cut. When our salaries no longer cover what they covered 5 years ago, we’re forced to cut back in order to keep the wheel turning. Thank you for these encouraging words. I’m not sure where to begin but I’m on board!

    • Matthew Bennett says:

      Thanks Terry! My new rally cry is for a comfortable wage! We don’t need to get rich but in a field with such high burnout, money should not be our #1 stressor!

  3. George Mercer says:

    Right on…..I think we have been underpaid and overworked for so long that we have become complacent and cannot even vision a change in how we are compensated. I also think that many of our employers who hire us as contract workers are taking advantage of us – compelling us to work ultimately for lower wages and doing more of the administrative tasks that the employer should be doing. I believe my employer would endorse some social action around improvement in wages/compensation and would support efforts we make. Will be thinking about some potential forms of social action.

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