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Time cover sparks conversation among educators

Posted: 4:22 PM, Sep 14, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-14 20:22:19Z
Time cover sparks conversation among educators

Educators in South Florida hope the cover of Time Magazine will shed light on a problem some said they've been talking about for years: low teacher pay.

The cover shows a teacher, who said she has 16 years of experience, works two extra jobs and donates blood plasma to pay the bills. Then it says: "I'm a teacher in America."

"It really made me think, why would anyone get into this profession?" said Eric Jourgensen.

He is still a passionate teacher after 14 years on the job.  He said despite that amount of time, he wouldn't trade it for the world. "I love making a difference," he said.

But the article and magazine cover has him now asking that question. "I don’t donate plasma or anything like that, but I pick up extra jobs at school, sponsoring two or three clubs, activities director a whole bunch of different things just to be able to make ends meet at home," he said.

Justin Katz, the president of the Palm Beach County CTA, said this could be a turning point.
"It’s always been known within the profession, going back about 10 or 15 years," he said.  "As the gap started increasing between educator pay and other professional pay, I think it’s come to a boiling point."

Katz said Florida fares even worse than other states. "Literally you could go to 40 to 45 other states and get higher pay," he said.

Even some school superintendents like Wayne Gent of St. Lucie County Schools acknowledge the problem.  Gent said he advocates for change and called it a "disgrace" for teachers.  He said they "absolutely" need to be paid more.

"They're not paid for what they’re worth, particularly here in Florida," he said.  "We are losing teachers. About 17 percent will leave after five years."

Gent hopes the Time cover will finally make teacher compensation a priority.   

Many school districts are turning to voters for more funds to try to address the issue through referendums on the ballot in November.