Teachers Speak At Board Meeting About Low Salaries

Ellie Graff, News Editor

On Monday, September 17th, a school board meeting was held at the South Bend Community School Corporation [SBCSC] headquarters in downtown South Bend. The room was filled with about fifty teachers representing various schools in the district. Although this particular meeting attracted a fairly large number of people, according to English teacher at Adams High School, Randy Ebright, “On average only five to ten teachers actually show up.” So what has caused this recent surge in attendance? A few parents made an appearance to articulate issues with busing disorganization, and one mother explained how she had to teach her nine-year-old daughter to use the public city bus system because the regular school bus was either two hours late or didn’t show up at all nearly every morning. Primarily, though, as the 2019 budget negotiations approach, more and more teachers are coming out to speak at the meetings, and express their concerns about low teacher salaries and low teacher morale. When Ebright was asked why he thought so many teachers have been leaving the corporation to find work elsewhere, he answered, “Because teachers are getting younger, they are having children, they are paying student loans, they are buying houses. They are trying, as humans, to move forward in their lives, and it’s hard to do that when your paycheck is stagnant.”  Ebright has been teaching for nine years and has received minimal increases to his salary. “Yes, teacher salaries have increased, but the price of everything else has increased more.” Cecilia Stanton, a Spanish teacher at Adams, has had similar experiences with insufficient funding to keep up with life’s daily expenses. “It’s hard to raise a family and be able to keep up with payments in general. Our salaries are not keeping up with that.” Both Ebright and Stanton are forced to work other jobs on the side to be able to provide for themselves and their families. In addition to raising two children, Ebright goes into work around 2-4 am and works a 6-8 hour shift on Saturdays, as well as during school vacations and most holidays. Despite sponsoring National Honor Society, Spanish Club, Social Action for Student Safety [SASS], and Quiz Bowl at Adams, Stanton must find the time to teach courses at IUSB and find work as a translator and tutor to make ends meet. Even in stressful times, both of these dedicated teachers are hopeful for future improvements.

With the three minutes of time allotted for each public comment at the School Board meeting, both  Ebright and Stanton shared their stories and their struggles of teaching for the South Bend Community School Corporation.  Ebright feels like the school board members are listening and acknowledging the need for livable wages for teachers, but emphasizes that “we need to work together. That includes the board, teachers, and downtown administration.”  Stanton commented, “I think we are being heard, but I don’t think they are taking action fast enough to keep teachers around and raise the morale that’s pretty low.” What action needs to be taken exactly? Stanton believes that funding should be focused first and foremost on increasing teacher salary, because at the end of the day, no matter how much technology and extra “perks” the students receive, “If the teachers are not content enough to put in 100 percent of the effort in, nothing will change for the students.” Most of all, there needs to be change beyond the school board and the administrators downtown. As  Stanton put it “I think at some point, not just at the local level, our society needs to realize the importance of teachers, and the people who work directly with the students.” If you are interested in speaking at or attending a school board meeting in the future, check out the South Bend Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees Calendar 2018 Meeting Dates.