Credit: George Danby

Last week, Gov. Janet Mills proposed a minimum salary of $40,000 for Maine teachers. Though I applaud such a proposal, I think Mainers need to be made aware of the fact that full-time adjunct professors with the Maine Community College System and the University of Maine System do not make close to that amount.

In short, adjunct professors earn around $2,100 to $2,300 per course with the Community College System and between $2,900 and $3,900 per course with the University of Maine System. When one factors how full-time employment is equal to eight courses per academic year, your average full-time, adjunct professor, who usually splits his/her time teaching at the two systems or at two different campuses within one of the systems (you cannot teach more than five courses per academic year in either system), only earns between $17,000 to $32,000 per academic year. Despite such a low wage, these academics with advanced degrees are not eligible for health benefits. Our wage, in sum, is equal to around $15 to $18 per hour — the average salary of the custodial staff at both institutions.

In Maine, then, we have a serious problem in that our affordable secondary education is coming at the cost of requiring highly trained teachers to work for poverty wages. As I playfully noted to a colleague recently, this lack of resolve on the part of our politicians and administrators to grant us a dignified wage might be playfully called “crimes against humanities.”

Such a modest wage, too, leads to a rather high turnover rate for adjunct professors so that department chairs, in turn, find it difficult to maintain a consistent and cohesive curriculum. A number of adjunct professors in other states, too, are beginning to question if such low pay is a violation of Equal Pay for Equal Work for tenured professors earn 50 percent to 60 percent more than adjunct professors for teaching the same number of courses.

Moving forward, then, it is vital that the governor and Legislature do something about this for we, currently, already earn significantly less than the lowest paid teachers at our elementary schools and high schools. Additionally, because the state of Maine funds around 40 percent of the budget of the Community College System, such an undignified wage reflects badly on the state.

Finally, as teachers who are training the next generation of accountants, teachers, welders, nurses, etc. we are job creators and are as vital to our beloved Maine economy as our entrepreneurs. Let’s then move forward with a proposal that all teachers/adjunct professors earn a minimum of $40,000 per year.

Dennis Camire of West Paris is an adjunct professor at Central Maine Community College and the University of Maine at Augusta.