Worthy Wage Day is annually observed on May 1. It’s the day to bring public attention to the wages of essential workers, ensuring that the amount of labor they put in reflects on their paycheck. The main goal of this day is to highlight fair compensation, specifically for childhood educators. As a teacher-led movement, this day is to remind everyone that the world’s most essential professionals – from doctors to scientists and engineers – all started from basic education. Teachers are the foundation of all professionals. It’s time to return the favor and give them the compensation they deserve.
History of Worthy Wage Day
Teachers are some of the most underpaid and undervalued professionals in the U.S. There is a history behind what was deemed ‘worthless wages’ and how it caused an uprising among educators. After the normalization of unfair compensation throughout the decades, the Worthy Wage Day was created as a form of teacher activism back in 1992. It was a day of community activities supported by over 120 organizations in 30 different states, holding rallies and teach-ins, and so much more. It garnered national attention when it was featured on “CBS Nightly News.” Everyone was aware that this movement wouldn’t yield overnight success, so it became an annual event for stakeholders to continuously raise their voices and fight for fair compensation for a largely invisible workforce.
Despite this movement, the U.S. economic system didn’t acknowledge the value of the teaching industry for a while. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in 1994, teachers earned 1.8% less a week compared to other workers. All they could do was continue their efforts to disrupt the status quo. This lasted for at least a decade. 1991 to 2001 were the years of protests, rallies, and media campaigns.
In the early to mid-2010s, teachers’ wages were at the height of public attention. In 2014, further research showed that half of the teaching workforce depended on food stamps to support themselves. In 2016, at least 20,000 educators from West Virginia walked out of the classrooms until the state met their demands both in insurance and salaries. In 2018, thousands of teachers in Oklahoma seized the capitol, vowing not to leave until lawmakers take action on education funding. As of today, fair compensation activism in the teaching industry is still a continuous movement for the government to make necessary changes. Worthy Wage Day reminds everyone that teachers deserve so much more for their contributions.
Worthy Wage Day timeline
U.S. President Johnson creates Head Start, the first publicly-funded preschool to support low-income families.
Teachers start an activism event to raise awareness for fair compensation in the education sector.
In West Virginia, 20,000 teachers walk out of their classrooms, demanding that the state grant their demands on insurance and salaries.
Thousands of teachers in Oklahoma head to the capitol and rally for fair compensation.
Worthy Wage Day FAQs
What are the qualifications to be a teacher in the U.S.?
The qualifications to be a professional educator include a bachelor’s degree, state-approved program completion, the passage of licensure exam, successful background check, and other local school requirements.
What is the average annual salary of high school teachers in the U.S.?
A high school teacher’s average annual income in the U.S. is $64,340.
Do teachers get paid in the summer?
No, teachers don’t get paid during the summer and on holidays. However, some teachers may opt for a 12-month pay structure in which their total annual pay excluding holidays will be divided and given to them each month. That way, from a budgeting point of view, it seems like they’re getting paid during holidays.
How to Observe Worthy Wage Day
Participate in fundraisers
Multiple organizations in different states conduct fundraising events for educators on Worthy Wage Day. These events are dedicated to helping educators provide the necessary tools, materials, and resources for teaching.
Remember your favorite teacher
Worthy Wage Day is not just about raising awareness of unfair compensation, it’s also about celebrating every teacher’s value. One of the simplest ways to do that is to send your favorite teacher a letter or gift, expressing your appreciation for them.
Join awareness campaigns
The fight for every teacher’s worth is an ongoing battle. Every Worthy Wage Day, teachers and other essential workers within the education industry conduct campaigns such as seminars, parades, and rallies to continuously bring public attention to this epidemic. You may join these events as a volunteer or spectator.
5 Interesting Facts About Wages
Worst wage stagnation of all professions
According to the Department of Education’s data, 3.2 million public teachers are earning less than average than they did in 1990 with inflation-adjusted dollars.
Wages in Arizona are plummeting
According to “Time” magazine, the average teacher’s annual wages in Arizona are down by $5,000.
An ongoing centuries-long issue
In 1647, the first public school was established in Massachusetts, where teachers were asked to do the job for less pay.
New York is the highest-paying state
According to Newsweek, the average annual income of teachers in New York is $87,543.
It started in California
The Worthy Wage Day campaign started in the Child Care Employee Project in California.
Why Worthy Wage Day is Important
We love our teachers
We all have had a special connection to teachers since we were kids. They helped us hone our character and support us to find our passion for future careers. Worthy Wage Day is the time of the year to give back and recognize the value of the profession.
We support wage equality
In the era of wage equality amongst men and women of all professions, it only makes sense to show support to this invisible workforce. Teachers may not always be in the spotlight making headlines, but fair compensation in their industry is not any less important.
Education is key to success
Supporting fair compensation for teachers is key to the foundation of better education in the U.S. Honing and nurturing educators creates a ripple effect on the future of the American education system, strengthening the workforce, and mobilizing their passion into action.
Worthy Wage Day dates