Do Teachers Get Paid During Government Shutdown?

In the words of American writer Maggie Gallagher, “Of all the hard jobs around, one of the hardest is being a good teacher.” Truly, teachers have one of the most important jobs for the future. They are responsible for training young minds and preparing them to become the thinking adults of the future.

Their working environment, however, is not always ideal.

In the previous years, we’ve seen a rise of cases where students hit their teachers and subject them to violence. Teachers have their own horror stories of parent-teacher meetings where parents spew verbal abuse at them for failing their child. And when it comes to pay, teachers make roughly above the median salary in the United States.

There’s also the case of public school teachers during the government shutdown. Public school teachers are government employees, to a certain degree. And while they get paid even during a government shutdown, they’re usually at the front of the effects of it in terms of handling their students that are affected by it and with regards to the Department of Education.

The Life of a Private School Teacher

What’s surprising to most people is that private school teachers, on average, get paid less than public school teachers. In a National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) survey, the average base salary of a private school teacher is $36,250. Compare this with a public school teacher’s base salary of $49,630. This isn’t because private teachers are underpaid (as seen in their students’ performance compared to public school students) or public teachers are overpaid. This is because those who go on to become private school teachers are willing to ignore the salary gap in exchange for better working conditions.

In private schools, class sizes are generally smaller, making them more manageable and allowing them to help students who need additional help. The smaller student population also means a closer student to staff ratio, making it easier for staff to monitor students. Private schools have the right to pick their students, so it may be easier for a teacher if all students have a similar ability to learn. Private schools are not required to follow standardized teaching methods and can use whichever teaching practice is most effective. School buildings are privately-owned and maintained, which means better classrooms and working conditions. There’s less red tape involved since teachers do not have to answer to government organizations. And parents pay for tuition, which means they are invested in their children’s education.

A survey done by the NCES surveyed elementary teachers on what the serious problems in schools are. Public school teachers cited physical fights between students, verbal abuse and disrespect to teachers, student and parent involvement, and absenteeism. In comparison, less than 5 percent of private school teachers cited the same problems. So, while they’re paid less, private school teachers have accepted this in exchange for better working conditions and the freedom to teach the way they want. Some teachers even accept even lower salaries in boarding schools, since faculty get to live free on-campus housing in exchange for working more hours.

Public School Teachers’ Pay

While private school teachers are paid with income from tuition fees, public school teachers are paid with local, state, and federal taxes. While most of the teachers’ salaries come from local taxes, a percentage of federal taxes makes them technically government employees. Compared to private school teachers, public school teachers make roughly more at almost $50,000 annually. This is not, contrary to other opinions, because public school teacher is overpaid. In fact, public school teachers earn 30 percent less than compared to college graduates in other careers.

They earn more because, aside from making public school teachers endure additional work and more students compared to private schools, laws are tighter about who public schools can hire. Unlike private schools that can hire anyone (they can hire someone with a Ph.D. but no license to teach), public schools are required to hire licensed teachers. Since 87 percent of teaching jobs in the United States are from public schools, there is a high demand for teachers but a low supply of licensed teachers. And because of the average conditions of a public school, the only way to get people to enter the field is with a higher salary compared to private schools.

Do Teachers Get Paid During Government Shutdown?

Private school teachers will be paid whether or not the government shuts down. Since the school is private, it does not receive government funding. And because they don’t receive funding, they have a right to set their tuition fees and choose which students to admit. So, these tuition fees become the school’s income and become the teachers’ salary source.

Public school teachers will also be paid. Only a small percentage of their salary comes from the federal government. If the shutdown begins in the middle of the school year, their salaries will be unaffected since the previous year’s federal budget has already set aside funds for their salaries. Hypothetically speaking, the government shutdown will only affect them if the shutdown lasts so long that it reaches the next school year. However, seeing as the longest government shutdown lasted 35 days, it’s unlikely that the government will close long enough to affect public school teachers’ salaries.

There is the question, however, of public school teachers involved in federal programs. For example, teachers in military bases and Native American reserves are technically teaching on federal grounds. If the government will furlough government workers that aren’t essential to the country’s protection, it’s highly likely that most of these teachers (if not all) will be furloughed or put on temporary leave.

Teachers are a vital member of a functioning society that wants its children to learn and become thinking adults. And while most teachers will not be affected by another government shutdown, the way they are paid tells another story entirely: one where we’ve undervalued their role to our kids’ future.

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