Arizona teacher who spent $2,000 of her $31,000 salary on school supplies speaks out about need for a livable wage

Zoe Hyde: "I had to get markers, crayons, pencils, tissues. All those supplies that you think are part of the education environment, I had to buy myself."

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SOURCEMedia Matters for America
Image Credit: Media Matters for America

From the April 30 edition of MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi:

ALI VELSHI (HOST): Zoe, I need to focus in on you for a second because I need to understand what the link is between teacher salaries and the low amount of money that Arizona spends per pupil because I’ve talked to so many teachers who say that in order to make things work they have to take it out of their own salaries. Are you one of those teachers?

ZOE HYDE (ARIZONA 5TH GRADE TEACHER): Oh, definitely. Especially being a first-year teacher, I had to build a classroom from the bottom up. So I had to get things like an entire library. I had to get seating. I walked into a classroom with tables, like four tables. So I had to get seating. I had to get extra materials. I had to get markers, crayons, pencils, tissues. All those supplies that you think are part of the education enviornment, I had to buy myself.

VELSHI: Zoe, so you’re a first-year teacher. So you don’t earn $47,300.

HYDE: I don’t. About 31 when you come out to it.

VELSHI: So $31,000 and you spend out of your own money for things that most us think should be in a school and that the education system should provide. So, Randi, I need to ask you this. Who does it pay? Why do states do this? Why do states decide to lower funding for public education? Who thinks that this is good for us in 15 or 20 years when these kids are graduating, competing with everybody in the world for places in colleges and universities or jobs?

RANDI WEINGARTEN (PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FED. OF TEACHERS): So, Ali, you’ve been following this in West Virginia, in Oklahoma, now in Arizona, with teachers who are telling you their stories. What has happened since the last recession is that states, predominantly Republican governors, had made a decision to do tax cuts mostly for corporations and the wealthy and do them at the expense of public education. And frankly, teachers always try to do more with less, and they’ve gotten very exploited because they try to do everything they can to make a difference in the lives of kids. And this year, it just got too much because what’s happening is with the high cost of health care, teacher salaries are actually going down. And in Arizona, what’s happening is that we don’t know whether or not this teacher raise, which everybody is very appreciative of. It shouldn’t have taken 50,000 teachers on the street to get it, but everybody’s appreciative of it. But is that raise going to mean that kids are going to get less funding? And that is what we’re very concerned about. We need to actually have funding for textbooks, for curriculum, for schools that are broken down. And it would be good if Zoe actually spent $300 or $400 on her classroom instead of $1,000 or $2,000. And that’s the kind of thing that teachers need. That’s why we’re still out here because the governor is not talking to any of us. He’s just tweeting.

VELSHI: So this is an important point. Out of your $31,000 roughly pre-tax money, you spent $2,000, which is after tax money, on school supplies, so that’s worth even more than that. And you’ve got a whole bunch of issues. And this is why I think the teachers, Zoe, are asking for a list of things because you got a number of students in your class, for instance, who don’t speak English. There’s no curriculum for them. You’ve got students with special needs. You need the support staff to be able to be paid so that this doesn’t all become a zero-sum game.

WEINGARTEN: Exactly.

VELSHI: That they give you a little extra money and you end up paying more anyway.

HYDE: Yeah. That little extra money isn’t going to go the long haul. Yeah, a teacher raise is productive, but the funding is what keeps teachers in the profession, and the funding is what keeps my [English Language Learners (ELL)] specialist who comes into my room and pulls out my 12 ELL [students], helps fill those gaps that are increasing over years, who pulls out my three gifted students and works with them at a higher diversity of education. Those people who come and test for reading. They’re the ones who are assisting in the differentiation of learning.

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