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‘I started delivering groceries’: Veteran Ky. teachers work side jobs to survive



BOYD COUNTY, KY. (WKYT) – Kentucky dropped from 40th to 41st nationally since last year for average teacher salary.

Educators in the commonwealth make an average of $56,296 per year.

Factor in the rising cost of living, and teachers are making about 5% less than they did a decade ago.

Kathleen Salyers has spent the last 25 years in an eastern Kentucky classroom.

Now, after a long day of teaching students, she uses her nights to bring in extra money to help support her family.

“I just started delivering groceries in the evenings as much as I can,” said Salyers, “Then I do spend Saturday and Sunday doing it as well for at least eight hours.”

And she’s not alone.

She took to social media to share her experience, which sparked responses from many in the same boat.

“I mean, I hate to say it, but my husband and I, we’re not able to keep food in the refrigerator,” said Heather Thomas-Deal. “I didn’t want to have to go to my mother, who’s 75 years old, to ask for help. I’m 49, I shouldn’t have to do that.”

Thomas-Deal is a veteran educator with 21 years of experience under her belt. However, she says the belt has never felt this tight before.

“I’m about $100,000 in debt for my college degrees, and I’ll probably die with it,” she said. “That’s as much as my house.”

She estimates inflation has risen about 15 percent over the last three years, while her wage has only increased 12 percent.

She tells WKYT she’s not too proud to pick up extra work, but it comes with its own price tag.

“Let me tell you something, it’s tiring when you’ve taught all day and then you have to dash until 9:00 at night and then get home and still have to grade papers,” she said.

The two say some of their colleagues waitress or work retail jobs on the weekends to stay afloat.

And while they recognize inflation has impacted every American household, they wish teachers were respected enough to earn a living wage.

“We can’t even survive,” said Salyers. “I mean, I didn’t get into education thinking I was going to get rich. I knew this. I knew I would be living paycheck to paycheck. But now it’s to the point that I can’t even live paycheck to paycheck anymore.”

Salyers daughter even left the teaching profession because of the financial burden.

“I don’t even blame her,” she said. “And she would’ve made a great teacher.”

Lawmakers once again discussed teacher salaries at the capitol this session.

Ultimately, they made no moves for state-mandated raises.

Instead, they added additional SEEK funding for schools and left it up to local districts to offer their own increases to teacher pay.

Some blame the struggle squarely on the shoulders of decision-makers in Frankfort.

“Till we get funding from the state, this is where we are, and at this point, who’s going to go to college to become a teacher when they’re going to have to work 3 jobs just to survive?” said Salyers.

She says she loves her job and being around the children every day, but if she could go back in time, she might reconsider her decision to get into teaching.

“It’s just very, very frustrating that education is not more important,” she said.

The average starting teacher salary in Kentucky is $39,204 per year.

Despite rising demand for educators, research shows they are learning eight percent less than the average pay for all U.S. workers.

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