On average, teachers in the state’s three cities Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport earn about $3,000 to $5,000 less than teachers working in suburban schools – because cities don’t have the funding resources.
Sharon Palmer, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, whose union represents the cities’ teachers and others, said that another reason for the compensation gap is that the state of Connecticut has not fulfilled its funding commitment to support schools in cities and towns.
For years, cities and towns have lobbied the state General Assembly for full funding for education, as a way to boost teacher salaries and provide incentives to keep teachers working in urban districts. But the mandate has never been met.
According to new teacher contract data, a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree earns about $42,000 a year in the three big cities compared with a starting teacher in Greenwich, Darien and Westport, whose entry-level pay ranges from $45,000 to $51,000.
Also, a teacher with master’s degree earns about $60,000 a year in the urban districts compared with $80,000 a year in Greenwich, Westport and Darien.
Palmer said that teachers in urban districts face more challenges.
“Children (in urban districts) do not have early childhood education and therefore do not come to school prepared to learn. There are larger numbers of learning disabled and special education students in classrooms which have more students totally per classroom than their suburban counterparts,” said Palmer.
She added, “English language learners and students having English as a second language comprise a much higher percentage of the school population than suburban schools. Many families live in poverty which presents its own list of issues.’’.
About 10 percent of the state’s residents live in poverty, according to the American Community Survey statistics for 2010. But the number of children living in poverty is much larger statewide, the data shows.
In Hartford, 44.5 percent of children live in poverty; in New Haven the rate is 43.7 percent and in Bridgeport 31.2 percent, according to the ACS data.
While there are challenges in urban schools, Palmer added, “There are richness and diversity in the urban schools…It makes teaching there much more interesting and exciting.”
Joshua Hall, a teacher at Weaver High School from 1996-2008 said, “The challenges facing urban teachers are the lack of parental engagement in schools.”
Hall, who taught grades 9-11, said, “The schools lack resources such as computers, furniture and also text books that the student may use.”
To help teachers Hall, said, “The union is developing a teacher conference that would be beneficial to them’’ and provide support.
Cardel Ferriera is a student at the Weaver High School Journalism And Media Academy, Hartford.