Help! Our Teacher “Raise” Doesn’t Cover Insurance


Dear We Are Teachers,

After 6 years of no raises for teachers in my district, the board “heroically” announced they’d approved salary increases. They also conveniently switched our insurance coverage to a provider that, to keep the same coverage, would make our premium go up more than the raise. In other words, if we want to keep the same coverage, we’re all taking home less cash. Teachers in my district are livid, but we’re in a right-to-work state. What can we do?

—what’s the opposite of a raise? a Lower?

Dear W.T.O.O.A.R.A.L.,

Ah, yes, the old bait-and-switch. A district I worked in did the same thing. I’m surprised (read: not surprised) that in the age of social media, districts are still doing this and expecting to not get called on it.

I have two recommendations:

1. Don’t shut up about it.

Talk to your union rep and see what the most effective channels are to lodge a complaint. Speak at school board meetings. Email. Talk to your local media—see if they’re interested in a story called: “District Leaders Lie About Teacher Raises.” Or more dramatically, “Heroes? THINK AGAIN.” I have more where this came from.

2. Organize in un-fireable ways.

Sure, they can fire you for forming a union. But they can’t fire all of you for showing up at the school board meeting in shirts that say “Where’s my raise?” Maybe they need a walkout where you are all magically sick on the same day. Just make sure you’re not sending out communications using district devices, email, or on contract hours.

If all else fails, leave. A district that tries to trick its teachers into believing its leaders care about them is not one worth working for, in my opinion.

Dear We Are Teachers,

I was having lunch with teacher friends this week and found out that one of our APs has been making sexually explicit and inappropriate comments to several new teachers at our school. He has always been creepy and made inappropriate remarks verbally, but he apparently now feels emboldened enough to write these comments in texts and DMs on social media—I think because he is BFFs with our superintendent. I’m sick of his predatory behavior. But what’s the best way to go about this that doesn’t result in retaliation toward me?

—brother ew

Dear B.E.,

Gross. This guy shouldn’t be any kind of school leader. But luckily for all of us, this dude is dumb enough to put his harassment in writing. I really, really hope he isn’t this way with students, but there’s no telling.

There’s a lot of things that need to happen. But before anything—even before talking to your school’s union rep—I would consult an employment lawyer. It sounds like he is breaking some very serious Title IX laws, and if you’re the one blowing the whistle on a Good Ol’ Boys Club, you’ll need to make sure you have your ducks in a row legally.

Remember, too, that the law protects you from retaliation. It’s intimidating, but you’re doing the right thing.

Dear We Are Teachers,

OK. I have a would-you-rather situation for you. I’m a third-year teacher transferring out of my current district. I got these offers from two different schools:

School 1: A 10-minute commute. Would be teaching 3rd (my favorite grade and wheelhouse). Seemed to have high teacher turnover this year. Principal was very nice but a little scattered. Didn’t get to meet other teachers. School is brand-new with awesome facilities and tech.

School 2: A 45-minute commute. Would be teaching 4th (a new grade for me and has a standardized test in three subjects). Principal was awesome. Got to meet the team and they all seem great and very happy. Building is very old and campus school will have to move to temporary campus next year in portables while it’s being built.

What are your thoughts? My heart is saying 2, but my head is saying 1!

—head vs. heart

Dear H.V.H.,

Only you can make this call, really. But if you’re asking what I think, which you are, having written to my advice column, I say school 2 for several reasons.

1. Principal and teacher vibes go a long, long way.

The older I get, the more I believe in trusting your gut. (Maybe because my gut has become more trustworthy? Hard to say.) But it sounds like you feel safer with the principal at school 2, which I think is big.

2. High teacher turnover is a red flag.

Teachers have to be really unhappy to leave in large numbers. Just saying. (Read on for more interview red flags—and the best green flags!)

3. Beware of placing temporary convenience over permanent happiness.

Will a longer commute be annoying? Yes. Is it more annoying than an absolutely miserable school experience? No. (Plus, you can move. Also, podcasts.)

Will it be a transition to learn a new grade? Yes. But you’re going into your fourth year—you know enough of the ropes by now to be in a solid place.

Does working in an old building sometimes feel like working in a haunted house? Yes. Is transitioning to a temporary campus a huge headache? Yes. But again, neither of those are anywhere near as distressing as working somewhere where you’re having a terrible time coping.

4. Finally, don’t just think of next year.

In addition to next year, picture yourself three years from now. You’ll be in school 2’s brand-spankin’-new getup, you’ll have listened to 872 life-changing podcasts on your commute, and you’ll be a seasoned 4th grade pro. Not too bad, if you ask me.

Do you have a burning question? Email us at

Dear We Are Teachers,

My principal made the announcement that our middle school would be banning phones altogether next year. Teachers, admin, and staff were thrilled. Parents and students were immediately outraged at the cell phone ban. Apparently, there’s been so much backlash that our principal announced at our faculty meeting that he will allow phones between classes and during lunch. That is our policy now, which students totally disregard. How can we convince him that this is worth doubling down on? It would make teaching a hundred times easier next year.

—Grow a spine, principal mine

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