KNOX COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — A few short months ago, Corri Taylor was teaching a class full of 11th graders, now she spends her time creating beautiful flower arrangements.
“It was a desperately needed break,” said Taylor.
For her, the difficult decision to leave a career she loved came because of a perfect storm of problems offset by the pandemic.
“That's the saddest thing- is the reason I left the classroom was not the students, it was a bunch of other factors,” said Taylor.
While Taylor says no one becomes a teacher for the money, the pay only made her job even tougher. After nine years of teaching, she decided the stress combined with the low pay was too much.
“I think the pandemic showed just how adaptive and resilient teachers can be. And now they know that and so any new thing they throw at us to do, we're gonna do it. But you can only hold so much on your plate. And that was me. I reached my breaking point,” said Taylor.
Taylor has two bachelor’s degrees and one master's degree. She says her wages at her new job Bloom in Knox County would be comparable if she chose to work full-time.
“I feel for teachers because it's a common theme. When you talk to teachers, they're stressed or they're anxious or sad or worried about the future as you know. Are they gonna get paid fair is what's gonna happen to the retirement like all these factors,” said Taylor.
The Economic Policy Institute says on average, teachers earn 19.2% less than comparable graduates.
Governor Andy Beshear campaigned on supporting teachers with pay raises and submitted a budget proposal in January that included a minimum 5% pay increase and student loan forgiveness.
The state legislature passed record funding for education, not considering inflation. It included full-day kindergarten, increased funding for transportation, and millions for other areas. While many state workers were given a significant raise—including social workers and state troopers—school employees were left out of those raises.
Republicans in the legislature say the increased funding to the SEEK program would assist schools with pay raises if individual districts chose to do so.
The Kentucky Department of Education tells us that does not mean school districts will be able to afford raises that keep up with inflation or address key shortages.
In a statement, Toni Konz Tatman said:
"We are thankful and appreciative of the budget increases in education funding as it relates to full day kindergarten, career and technical education, school construction and transportation services. While we are happy to see the state make an increase in the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding program, the amount provided will not be enough to allow our school districts to increase the compensation levels of staff that keeps up with inflation or allows them to address key shortage areas. This increase is a step in the right direction, but more action must be taken to stop the outgoing tide of educators who are leaving the field and our difficulties in recruiting new teachers and support personnel. The compensation levels of school employees are closely connected to the decisions our legislature makes.”