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How much should a teacher be paid?
Arizona educator Elisabeth Milich raised that question in the wake of the teacher strike in West Virginia when she posted a picture of one of her pay stubs on Facebook to spark a debate over teacher compensation.
In a post that she has since removed, a frustrated Milich took a photo of the yearly pay portion of her salary showing that it went from $35,490 to $35,621 for an increase of $131.
"I actually laughed when I saw the old salary versus the new one," she wrote. "I need a college degree to make this?"
Milich has been in education for seven years and currently is a second-grade teacher at Whispering Wind Academy in Phoenix. Arizona has some of the lowest-paid public school teachers in the nation at an average salary of $47,218, compared to the national average of $58,353 a year according to National Education Association Research.
"I know I don't make a lot of money, but then when I see it in black and white I'm like 'wow!''' Milich told TODAY. "I mean, I love teaching, absolutely love it, but when you see what the salary is, you cannot live on it."
Milich told the NBC Phoenix affiliate that she often has to pay for student supplies like tape and markers out of her own pocket. She also is still paying off her student loans 20 years after graduating from college.
Milich's post came amidst Arizona teachers protesting for higher wages after being inspired by a teachers' strike in West Virginia last month that ended when they were promised a 5 percent raise.
Milich noted that she has been able to remain in education because of her husband's salary, but her friends and co-workers are not so lucky.
"My teacher friends that I work with, they work three and four jobs to make ends meet,'' she said. "I know teachers that teach kindergarten all day long and then they leave and they go waitress at Applebee's."
A 2017 study by Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy found that 42 percent of Arizona teachers hired in 2013 left the profession after three years, and that when adjusted for cost of living, Arizona elementary school teacher pay is the lowest in the country.
Milich initially posted her salary to bring awareness to the pay teachers receive, but she decided to take it down after some of the negative attention she was getting.
The office of Arizona governor Doug Ducey issued a statement to NBC News in response to the issues raised by Milich.
"The governor has made driving up dollars for K-12 education and teacher pay his top budget priority. Average teacher pay increased 4.4 percent last year."
The statement added that the pay increase is a move "in the right direction, but there's still more work to do."
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