I also think, as I stated in an earlier post, that we (meaning everyone) get in the weeds when we start coupling 'fair' and 'living wage', or linking fiscal policy with emotional ideas like 'fair'. I would bet almost every person in every job believes that their pay is less than fair, and can point to a number of reasons to prove it. A person is paid at the intersection of what the employer is willing and able to pay and what the employee is willing to work for. If it was 'fair', pro athletes and lawyers would not be paid more than teachers. Or my building custodian.
Back to the example of the poor district I worked for - and I am sure that this is the case for the district you worked for as well. What we were paid was not just what they wanted to pay us, it was what they could afford to pay us. As I said, it was a very fiscally efficient district. They taxed at 100% and collected at pretty close to 100%. This was at the time when Robin Hood started, and we were coupled with a 'rich' district that taxed at 75% and collected at 75%. Within a year we were taking out temporary loans to make payroll in some months. There were other factors like the state mandated class sizes in elementary classes without the funding to pay for the extra teachers required. All in all I am sure they wanted to pay more, but they were paying us at pretty much the limit of what they could afford.