Cost of living too high for Vineyard teachers

MVEA teachers and staff hold a rally to bring attention to their contract negotiations.

Supporters of the Martha's Vineyard Educators Association’s demand for livable wages and commensurate health care plans gathered at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven on Saturday afternoon. — Abigail Rosen

Supporters of the Martha’s Vineyard Educators Association (MVEA) gathered on Saturday at Vineyard Haven’s Five Corners to build public awareness about their ongoing contract dispute with the school district.

Omnipresent, bright yellow “Fair pay for the MVEA” signs held by Vineyard teachers, parents, and students were met with supportive car honks. The teachers and their supporters were attempting to raise awareness of the current debate taking place between the Islands’ teacher union and the school committee over their contract.

Present were an array of school staff, current and retired teachers, cafeteria workers, students and parents of students, all of whom felt the need to acknowledge the importance of supporting the Island’s schools’ employees.

The demands are relatively straightforward, said MVEA co-president Gina Patti. As stated in their letter to The Times, also visible on the MVEA website, “[M.V.’s] teachers need to earn a livable wage, and feel supported and valued by their community … with inflation rates soaring, our previously negotiated wages have not come close to keeping up with the cost of living.”

“The high cost of living on this Island makes offering a competitive salary essential,” the letter reads. “Just as healthcare workers can’t afford to live on M.V., our educators and support staff are also stretched to be able to afford to live on M.V. We implore you to offer Island teachers wages that are commensurate with the cost of living to support the future of our schools.”

Teachers are feeling the pinch of the Island’s housing crisis. According to the MVEA petition letter, in addition to wage disputes, the school district recently attempted to renegotiate the health insurance plans of school employees, a change that would limit health care options and/or require “educators to pay more out of pocket for their health insurance.” Healthcare coverage is “one of the most valuable pieces of compensation” Martha’s Vineyard school staff receive, and the diminishment of insurance benefits would have far-reaching detrimental effects.

Patti, spokesperson for the teacher’s union in its ongoing negotiations with the Martha’s Vineyard School Committee and organizer of Saturday’s gathering, explained that the fair wage proposal, which is not limited to just teachers, but includes specialists, occupational therapists, nurses, guidance counselors, etc., has been met with resistance by the school committee, with offers that do not financially compute with the reality of Vineyard living.

The current three-year contract offer presented to the school employees is insufficient, former MVEA president Anne Davey said; however, “we are willing to negotiate. We are willing to go back to the table.”

Kate DeVane, chair of the all-Island school committee, and co-chair of the negotiations team for the towns of Martha’s Vineyard, told the Times, “We cannot comment on ongoing negotiations,” asserting that the committee is working to do the “best for our teachers, [whom] we value.

“We are trying to respond to their request without putting an unacceptable tax burden on the rest of the community,” DeVane added. 

Mediation is scheduled to take place April 14.

“We all want better futures for our children,” MVEA reps said in the statement calling for equitable employment benefits. “There’s no debate that a good-quality education is the foundation of our children’s future success, and a good education requires qualified and talented teachers and support staff.”


  1. Hate to break it to you, but it ain’t just doctors and teachers who can’t afford to live there…

    • Successful teachers and doctors can afford to live here.
      I know hundreds of them.
      Especially university professors.

  2. Public school teachers are being savagely vilified across the country. Its appalling to witness the abuse and disrespect they have to endure. Teachers have THE most important job – educating our children. You cannot pay them enough for their tireless and often thankless service to the country. Stop shortchanging these dedicated and highly skilled professionals, and pay them what they deserve.

    • I have to once again totally disagree with you. *Veterans* have THE most important job protecting our country and you cannot pay them enough for their tireless, often thankless service and sacrifice to the country!
      Veterans hospitals, and services are being shut down & and others are downsizing.
      Veterans outpatient services are being cut and waiting times for per-approved appointments are forever.
      Many vets literally DIE before getting proper medical & psychological treatment. This is all well know and have been going on for decades.
      The backlog for service connected disability claims is at a all time high and the wait times for hearings is thu the roof. Automatic “wholesale denying of claims” is a well known common realty!
      Vets appeals are put off for literally years under tall stacks of appeals claims, all the while them and their families are getting little or no compensation!
      Never in my life time have I ever seen protests at 5 corners or anywhere in our country of our fellow citizens protesting the totally known problems facing our country`s Veterans!

      At a later date I have a lot to say about the Ukraine, our southern border disaster and now the `Title 42` southern boarder mass opening but now is obviously not the time.

      • Woody, how has the southern border “crisis” directly affected you?
        Is it the constant dog whistle?
        A mundane talking point?
        We saw how effective Trump was protecting our Southern Border.
        And Russias.

      • Woody, if you’d like to see a protest over veteran’s treatment at Five Corners, you could very easily organize it yourself. You obviously know a lot of veteran’s, so pick a date and time, and start sending emails and making phone calls. I’m willing to bet that if you, George will be happy to post it here.

      • Woody– First, the word veteran refers to former active duty personnel.
        They are retired and no longer protecting us. Active duty personnel are.
        As a veteran myself, and the son of a former P.O.W who served for 17 years after being liberated from the the horrors of a Japanese camp at the end of WW 2, I appreciate the V.A. I benefited from many of the programs as the child of a vet, and as a vet myself. Most notably for me, the G.I bill for higher education.
        Perhaps there are some things you don’t know. From 2009 through 2017 the budget for the V.A increased by 86%

        The proposed budget for the V.A. in 2023 is up 13,3 % from fiscal 2022.,
        The point is, we are spending a lot of money on veterans health care.
        Of course, the problem is that the military command could have cared less if our brave young men and women were affected by things such as agent orange during the Vietnam conflict, or the burn pits of Iraq.
        The long term consequences of war are expensive.
        As truly dedicated veteran, — and I mean that– you are right out there and I respect that– you might have to continue sacrificing for your country because your country has consistently viewed active service personnel as cannon fodder in times of war.

      • First, you don’t believe that we can care about more than one thing at a time. If people care about teachers, they don’t care about veterans. It’s that zero-sum, divisive game that conservatives play oh-so-well. Second, you are perfectly free to organize a rally at 5 Corners for your cause. Third, the “crisis” at the southern border is entirely self-inflicted. There was a bi-partisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have resolved many of the issues now plaguing us at the border. But in typical right-wing fashion, the tea-party ya-hoo caucus tanked the bill because they went absolutely berserk when a Black man was elected president and would not allow him a win on immigration. This “crisis” has been going on for decades and is not specific to any one administration. And as for Title 42, which is a public health law – it was used by the Trump administration to prevent asylum seekers from crossing the border, presumably because of COVID. CDC doctors said it would have little effect, since people were coming into the country from everywhere else, and its legality was rejected by federal courts. It was just another hateful tactic by the racist haters to reject those refugees legally seeking asylum. Meanwhile, the state of Texas has deployed their National Guard at the border. They are essentially being used as props in a non-existent war. And they are committing suicide as a result of their living conditions and this farce of a mission. Why aren’t you raging against that?

  3. We don’t have an affordable housing problem, we have a wage crisis. Let’s pay teachers a living wage. Pay people what they are worth, and the rest solves itself. Keep Our Island Green

    • Mr Larkosh, how do you propose to pay teachers what they are worth? Shall we pay them say 150k per year and add to the property tax rolls? Do we pay them based upon performance? Do we pay them based upon a cost of living index for MV especially for housing? What are they worth and how to determine?

      • What are teachers worth? Great question. Go a generation without education that doesn’t put graduates on equal footing with those from elsewhere.

      • Andy– how did it come to be that executives of chemical companies raked in millions of dollars while selling poisons that future generations will spend billions of dollars to clean up ?
        Do you think that the cost of cleaning up superfund sites comes from the tooth fairy ?

        • Mr Keller are you trying to bait me into an answer for your own pleasure? You lose your credibility by stating ”selling poisons”. Chemicals are an integral part of life. Your house wouldnt be built without them nor your bike nor your Prius.

          • Andy–Many chemicals are just plain poison. Look at what people spray around their yards. They do it because they have been convinced by the marketing departments of chemical companies that the chemicals are safe. Those people are in the business of selling poison as a solution to the horrors of things like weeds in their driveways, or dandelions in their yards. Some of them get paid millions of dollars a year for it. I am just asking a simple question.
            Why did the head of Monsanto make 19.5 million dollars in 2017, or the CEO of Dupont make 12.9 million dollars in 2020 while the principal of our high school makes less than $120,000 ?
            We obviously reward people who deceptively sell poison to the ignorant masses, while paying our teachers and health care workers a barely livable wage.
            As for baiting you, Andy– I see your hero’s in the senate SCOTUS hearings asking such pertinent questions such as what is a woman, or do you think children are born racist? All the while accusing her of being a “pedophile apologist” .
            If I’m doing any “baiting” I’m learning it from republican senators. You could answer the question, though.
            By the way, I don’t own a Prius ;
            I own a 6 speed gasoline powered Mini Cooper that gets 40 mpg on island, has a range of about 750 miles and has a top speed of 150 mph.

    • Please look at the many job listings for Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. They’re already offering high wages, well beyond what most would consider livable, and yet they’ve been unable to fill 100 positions at last count.

      The CEO said that 19 applicants were recently offered positions and turned them down. I feel she was clear that the housing crisis is responsible for at least some of these folks opting out.

      Even with a salary increase, teachers are never going to make as much as doctors or be able to afford million-dollar-plus homes. Not unless they have another source of income. If physicians are having similar difficulties—and I know of a few who are— that tells us a lot about the supply. They could rent, but there are virtually no long-term rentals available, as we all know.

      It’s an affordable housing crisis, plain and simple. Employees can’t purchase or lease what isn’t on the market, and many essential positions are not designed to make people wealthy, no matter how hard they work.

      Denying the problem won’t solve things. I believe this is going to require multiple solutions. Easier said than done, of course.

  4. What is the starting salary for a teacher? What do they top out at? Can’t support something when the numbers haven’t been presented….

    • Anthony, teachers salaries are a matter of public record.
      As is government worker
      What they top out at is unimportant.
      So few ever top out.
      The important number is the average.
      Not to mention the cost of housing and everything else.

  5. Do you care about the children growing up here? There is going to be a significant number of teachers and support staff retiring in the near future and they will have to be replaced. Try replacing this critical segment of the workforce here with low, underfunded wages and see how that works out. In five years the conversation is going to be very different and very grim unless something is done about it now.

  6. Teachers salaries should exceed that of police salaries on the island. I respect the police and what they do, but teachers have it way tougher on the island and are having more of a community impact. Has anyone seen the Edgartown police salaries as of late? Significant

  7. To be a professional licensed teacher they start at just under $62 k and max out after 13 years at $102K. So a teacher who starts in their early 20’s is making over $100k in their mid 30’s. Then longevity pay kicks in maxing at an additional 5K a yr. They have 6 personal days a year, 15 sick days, an 1.25 hours of planning/lunch time during their 6.5 hour day. They work 186 days out of 250 weekdays each year or just about 13 weeks of free time each year which could be spent earning additional income. Full municipal benefits including health, dental, pension etc. Teachers are important but seems to me it’s a pretty good gig.

  8. A bit less. As of last month, the average annual pay for a public school teacher in Massachusetts was $45,052.

    As for that whopping pay increase by their mid 30’s, I remember the budget stretcher meals growing up. Don’t claim teachers are overpaid until you’ve had practical experience.

    • Mr. Thomas. Did you read the comment above yours. Those are MVYPS numbers. Not the state average. Of course teachers here are paid more. Remember, while housing costs are higher, we have some of the lowest tax rates in the state. While buying power may be slightly better off island, the taxes equilibrate the numbers somewhat. Housing is tough everywhere, it’s why people have commutes. They live where they can afford. We generally have shorter commutes to offset higher gas prices and we definitely have less time sitting in traffic during the school year. I speculate, by definition after reading the signs, they consider that they are unfairly paid for 186 or so days of contracted work. Does anyone know what they are asking for so we can figure out the impact on our taxes? It just keeps going up. I am not getting raises every year. For me this is negative hit tax wise.

      • Yes, I did. Like many, you trust the weighted figures of those who want to lessen teachers’ pay, you don’t trust the teachers themselves. My response is to walk away from the future of the Vineyard. Luck doesn’t beat economics this time.

    • The average salary for a teacher in Massachusetts is $82,349, one of the highest state averages in the nation. Data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education show great variance in average salaries across districts. The highest 10 pay above $100,000

  9. We should also reckon in the quality of teaching. US Education is falling behind other countries especially in math and test scores are below average global test scores. Massachusetts education is best in the US however. Cost per student in the USA is the highest in the world.

  10. I am a retired educator and I taught over 27 years at MVRHS. Every kid that came into my classroom was an individual who needed to learn and I had to find a myriad of ways to teach so that everyone of them would have success in their learning. Yes, that is the commitment of teaching and most times we meet that challenge, but not always. However, when we fall short, we keep on trying! Teaching, to me, is a powerful profession because it is so challenging and at times overwhelming to know that we, teachers, truly make a difference in kids’ lives!

    However, often times, we take teachers for granted. Teachers not only need to be praised through Covid times when teachers, once again, “stepped up”….making sure that they and the kids wore the mask (all day) and that they taught on-line classes to all kinds of learners, including themselves, and that they were there for the kids who weren’t learning as well on line. Yet, for all that they do, they still have to demonstrate at five corners to remind us that they need our voices and our commitment to support them in their ongoing contract negotiations.

    Once again, as an island community, let us “step up” and support our teachers in real financial ways not only in praise and thanks.

    • I strongly disagree that the teachers “stepped up” during Covid. My daughter lost 7 months of education with the so called on-line “classes”. Her scheduled classes amounted to roughly 2.5 hours a week with teachers. Meanwhile businesses such as UPS, Fed Ex, supermarkets and soon after restaurants and retail stores quickly figured out a way how to operate during Covid. The school system had an abysmal response and our children paid dearly for it.

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