The New York Times published a shocking expose of the dreadful conditions in America’s public schools, due to underinvestment in buildings, supplies, and personnel.

The stories told in this long article demonstrate the lack of concern for students and education, and the dedication of teachers willing to put up with these conditions. The schools have not recovered from the deep budget cuts that followed the recession of 2008-2009.

After you read the responses from teachers and see how poorly they are paid, and how much they must take out of their own pockets for supplies for their classrooms, you have to wonder why teachers across the nation are not walking out en masse and protesting to their state legislatures.

The Times invited teachers “to show us the conditions that a decade of budget cuts has wrought in their classrooms.” They received comments from 4,200 teachers. The Times published a selections of the submissions, and they are powerful. 

By the way, the median salary at Facebook is $240,000.

These comments help to explain why teachers are walking out, striking, protesting, and demanding new funding for their schools.

Broken laptops, books held together with duct tape, an art teacher who makes watercolors by soaking old markers.

Rio Rico, Ariz.

Michelle Gibbar, teacher at Rio Rico High School

Salary: $43,000 for 20 years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $500+

I have 148 students this year. The district skipped textbook adoption for the high school English department, leaving us with 10-year-old class sets, and we do not have enough for students to take them home. Our students deserve better. Our nation deserves better. 

As I near retirement age, I realize I will retire at the poverty level. The antiquated myth of the noble, yet poor, teacher must go. I am passionate about my subject and my students. I am not passionate about living paycheck to paycheck.


Jose Coca uses these textbooks daily in his Tempe, Ariz., middle school.CreditJose Coca

Tempe, Ariz.

Jose Coca, teacher at Kyrene Middle School

Salary: $46,000 with 12 years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $1,000

The building smells old and dank. There are holes in the ceiling, skylights don’t work, the walls need to be painted, I still use a chalk board, but — more important — my students need new desks and computers.

I can’t speak for other school districts, but mine — in Tempe — can’t get new social studies books for students. Young teachers spend more out of their own pockets because they don’t have supplies stockpiled.

My pay is not keeping up with inflation. I have co-workers leaving midyear, or not renewing their contracts, and I work with a lot of older teachers that have maybe five more years in them. I also work with some who retire and return as workers for a private staffing company.

North Las Vegas, Nev.

Kelsey Pavelka, teacher at Wilhelm Elementary

Salary: $33,000 with three years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $1,000

I have six laptops for 42 fifth-grade students (in one classroom) with many broken keys and chargers. My students are supposed to use these to prepare for their state test, which requires typing multiple paragraph responses. I crowdfunded to get 10 Chromebooks with all the keys on the keyboard, so they could learn to type on a machine that works.


Kathryn Vaughn, art teacher

Salary: $50,000 with 11 years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $1,500

I am a public-school teacher in the rural South. I’ve had to become incredibly resourceful with the supplies. Teaching art to about 800 students on a $100-a-year budget is difficult. I do receive some donations from the families at my school, but my school is Title I and the families don’t have a lot to give.

I personally have to work several additional jobs to survive and support my veteran husband. We live in a modest house, I drive a 15-year-old car, and despite all of that, even with my master’s degree, some months we are not food secure.

Warren, Mich.

Elliot Glaser, media specialist at Warren Mott High School

Salary: $94,000 for 20 years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $1,000

I work in a high school in a suburb north of Detroit. We have about 1,650 students, roughly 25 percent of whom are English Language Learners (students new to our country who don’t speak English well or at all).

After two years with no budget at all, this year I was given a little more than $500 for our library. I was able to purchase about 30 books. I am lucky, since our elementary and middle school libraries received no budget at all for the fourth straight year.

Story after story: the same reports of old textbooks, empty library shelves, obsolete technology, underpaid teachers.

What kind of a nation are we? What kind of future do we want for our children and our society? Why are we still spending millions of dollars every year on testing, when our schools need basic supplies for students and decent salaries for teachers?

By the way, the median salary at Facebook is $240,000. It shows what our society values. Not children. Not education.

All the focus on “school choice” is simply a hoax to distract attention from the billions of dollars that have not been restored to schools to reduce class sizes, update buildings, and pay teachers a professional salary.