teacher pay

Updated at 1:05 p.m. ET

It's a financial nightmare for public school teachers across the country: Federal grants they received to work in low-income schools were converted to thousands of dollars in loans that they now must pay back.

Walter Michot / Miami Herald

There's a reason why people are seriously considering having Miami teachers live at school.

Miami area teachers can now only afford 9 percent of area homes, according to new data from Trulia.

More than 9 in 10 teachers say they joined the profession for idealistic reasons — "I wanted to do good" — but most are struggling to some extent economically.

As the wave of teacher walkouts moves to Arizona and Colorado this week, an NPR/Ipsos poll shows strong support among Americans for improving teachers' pay and for their right to strike.

Teachers have staged protests in recent weeks in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado and Arizona. Some are fighting lawmakers who want to scale back their pensions.

It's no secret that many states have badly underfunded their teacher pension plans for decades and now find themselves drowning in debt. But this pensions fight is also complicated by one little-known fact:

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Most of the students at Royal Palm Elementary in Miami have Spanish-speaking families.

But those families also want their kids to speak – and read and write – more Spanish in school.

So teacher Alexandra Martin is leading her first grade class through “Vamos Papa,” with each child reading a passage from the Spanish language story. Martin helps students through proper pronunciation and words they stumble on.

This is the Miami-Dade public schools’ extended foreign language program, or EFL

New Florida Teacher Bonus Program Draws Complaints

Oct 12, 2015
John O'Connor / WLRN

In Brigette Kinney’s design class at Ada Merritt K-8 center in Miami, one of the key concepts is editing and revising ideas after getting feedback.

Her 8th graders create role-playing games based on books they read. Then they adjust the games  after watching their classmates play.

Kinney hopes Florida lawmakers will be as open to change as her students.

“I feel that legislators are out of touch with what it means to be a good teacher,” she said.

John O'Connor / WLRN

Miami teacher Brigette Kinney said she doesn’t always hear about school news when classes are out for the summer.

So Kinney missed the word that state legislators set aside $44 million for bonuses based on SAT and ACT scores during a special summer budget session. Teachers who scored in the top 20 percent the year they took the exam and earned a “highly effective” teacher evaluation are eligible.

But Kinney said she didn’t learn about the bonuses until she returned to school in August -- and that may have been too late.

Sean Dreilinger / Flickr

The State Board of Education approved a new statewide standard for the test-based portion of teacher evaluations Thursday.