When Lily Eskelsen García, president of the 3.2-million member National Education Association, attended the State of the Union address earlier this year as a guest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she had an unexpected encounter at a reception after the speech.
A waitress for the company catering the reception approached the head of the powerful teachers union, who was looking to put down an empty glass.
“Lily,” the waitress said. “I’m so happy to meet you.”
They struck up a conversation, and Eskelsen García soon learned that the waitress’ name was Evelyn Fabito. She was a media specialist at Dodge Park Elementary School in Maryland’s Prince George’s County. Fabito had been an educator for more than 20 years and was a long-time and active member of Eskelsen Garcia’s union.
“So, this is your second job?” Eskelsen García asked.
“No,” Fabito said. “This is my third. I have another on weekends.”
The plight of the teaching profession is a narrative that’s made headlines over the last two years, as educators have become more vocal about the state of their profession, including how their low pay stands in stark contrast to the high expectations placed on them. They’ve walked out of classrooms in protest, rallied at state capitols and gone on strike in nearly a dozen jurisdictions to demand higher pay, smaller class sizes and increased state investment in their K-12 systems.
Though average teacher salary has increased by 11.5% over the last decade, when taking inflation into account, average teacher salary has actually decreased by 4.5%, according to new data from the NEA.
“When you see the pay gap, you can see the gender gap, you can see the respect gap,” Eskelsen García said on a call with reporters last week, during which she detailed her chance meeting with Fabito. “The numbers speak for themselves. You can see that our teacher pay over the last decade has continued to erode.”
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