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Are Teachers Government Employees in America?

If you expect a resoundingly straightforward answer to this question, you’ll have to live with the disappointment of not getting any. That’s because there are some discrepancies about who pays them and the authority they fall under.

However, you’ve probably opened this article to learn more about this topic and to put the question to bed finally. So, are teachers government employees?

For the most part, the answer to that question is yes. But it might surprise you that teachers in public schools in the United States come under the Education Council of the government. However, that doesn’t make them strictly government staff. That makes the answer to the question both Yes and No. However, more facts lean toward ‘yes’ for an answer.

Almost all the schools are run by the Local and State Governments, while the Federal government takes a back seat. With that in mind, keep reading to find out where teachers stand.

Are Teachers considered Government Employees?

Setting the record on such a topic does well to have clear facts about the professional standing of teachers. This will also remove false ideas and long-established opinions about which level of government controls their status.

Generally, teachers can be classified as government employees. However, they’re not referred to as Federal employees in the United States. Further, teachers working in state-funded institutions are classified as state employees since public schools fall within the jurisdiction of the states where they operate. The public schools also receive the bulk of their funding through the state.

The government provides some federal funding and grants to the educational sector, but this is awarded as a whole to the sector or state rather than individual schools. To buttress this point, under the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution, all powers not granted to the federal government will be reserved for the states and the people.

This refers to the state and local governments, respectively. Even with occasional powers from the Federal government through various legislations, education rests with the state government.

Note that though all the schools are state-owned, the organization and profession of teachers fall under a government organization.

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Educational Functions of the State Government

The state government has different educational responsibilities, and the United States Department of Education spells them out. According to the Department, education is primarily a state and local responsibility.

Alongside input from the applicable public and private organizations, state governments perform roles such as:

  1. Establish schools and colleges: State governments establish schools and generally offer permissions, including those for privately run schools.
  2. Set Enrollment and graduation requirements: Examinations determine how well students perform. In that regard, the state directs school Boards and District Educational authorities on how to proceed at different levels.
  3. Assistance for educational research: Research facilities are part of the process for qualitative education, especially one that helps the country move forward. The state government does its bit to provide financial assistance, including to teachers who show promise. Moreover, the state government provides large parts of the funds for education, from elementary schools to colleges/universities.
  4. Develop curricula: It’s up to the state to prescribe syllabi and courses of study for different school classes and grade levels. That includes the length of each course, schedule, working days, and hours. The texts for teaching are recommended as well.

From the foregoing, teachers are state government employees and are considered government workers. Moreover, the state doesn’t directly pay the teachers; instead, it issues grants and funding to local districts and cities within its jurisdiction.

high school teacher in class

Benefits Teachers Enjoy From the Government

Like other professionals under the government, teachers are entitled to several benefits, including funds to cover themselves and their families. Some benefits are:

  1. Pension: It’s common knowledge that most school teachers are entitled to some benefits where the state offers them a life payment upon retirement from active service. However, the employee has to set aside some funds for that.
  2. Health insurance: Thanks to a growing number of schools, health insurance is becoming more tedious. Many schools only offer cover to teachers who stay long-term or after completing specific contract years. This puts pressure on teachers who might eventually leave the profession for more cover elsewhere.
  3. Social security: As important as social security is, many teachers are not covered by it. Statistics show that around 40% of public school teachers are out of the system. Even though it was initially made to cover only private workers, the United States Congress changed things around the 50s. As a result, some states extended the coverage to include their workers, while others improved on only pension packages.
  4. Summer breaks: While the requirements for a summer off differ from state to state, most public schools run for a standard nine months. In some quarters, this gives teachers three months off. While the National Education Association insists the months apply to only students, teachers use this time to upgrade their certification or take other jobs. Whether teachers are paid during summer breaks is another area of debate.

Are Teachers Federal or State Employees?

United States Capitol
The east side of the US Capitol in the early morning. Senate Chamber in the foreground.

The quote, “he who pays the piper dictates the tune,” rings true with teachers. That’s why the person or body that employs them matters. Besides, their employers, whether at the local, state, or federal level, set agendas for them through systems run by the schools.

The United States runs a federal system of government where powers are divided between the federal, state, and local governments. However, schools are mostly facilitated by the state and local governments that employ teachers.

Compared to other professionals, teachers in the United States do not enjoy many benefits. Many of them are underpaid compared to workers sporting similar skills and levels of education.

Further, the average wages of teachers also differ from state to state. However, the theme remains the same across the country, with many teachers earning far below their qualifications and experience.

This article has sufficiently examined the question posed at the beginning. So are teachers government employees? Yes! Barring some little differences, the fact is that all the public schools are government-owned and run under the state government, thanks to a federal system and the constitution.

As a result, all the teachers working in those schools are considered government employees. The profession of these teachers is tied to the government – their employers. As government employees, all the teacher’s benefits accrue from the state governments, including their pension and health insurance.

Since the government holds the purse strings, it can dictate what happens to the system and its employees, including teachers. Now that you know this, it’s clear that teachers shape the lives of many of the population, making them a vital part of society.

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