Ranking all 50 states on highest teacher pay shows the pinch of inflation

Despite rounds of raises, the rising cost of living is wiping out wage gains teachers have made in recent years.

Districts are awash in COVID relief funding but the inflation fueled by the pandemic means the power of teacher salaries has declined over the past 10 years, according to new research. And even though some states have given teachers big raises this year, this data suggests that a factor largely out of K-12 leaders’ control—the rising cost of living—will likely exacerbate the staff shortages many districts are already facing.

It’s estimated that the average teacher will make $66,397 for the 2021-2022 school year, as salaries have been increasing gradually. But when adjusted for inflation, this year’s earnings are also about $2,200 less—or about 4%—than a teacher earned a decade ago, according to new figures from the NEA labor union.

In fact, inflation is “undoing all the gains made over the previous two years,” the report says, referring to recent wage increases. The same inflationary pressure is also causing a slight decrease in the value of the salaries of paraprofessionals and other support staff, who will earn an average of $32,837 for working a 30-hour week in 2021-2022.

The report also accuses some states of “short-changing” experienced teachers. It notes that Texas ranks 14th for highest starting teacher pay but slips to 28th in overall salary. “The disparity between starting pay and average salaries in the Lone Star State is due to salary structures that inadequately compensate teachers based on additional training and experience,” its authors say. Research also shows that starting teachers earn about 19% less than other college-educated workers with similar characteristics. Closing this gap would require starting pay to increase by $10,000, a level paid by only around 10% of school districts.

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In a February survey, teachers said higher salaries could help them cope with the heightened stress they’ve been experiencing during the pandemic. More than 55% of teachers said the ordeals of COVID may force them to leave the profession earlier than they had planned.

Based on NEA’s data from more than 12,000 districts, here’s how the states rank for average teacher salary:

  1. New York: $90,222
  2. Massachusetts: $86,755
  3. California: $85,856
  4. Washington, D.C.: $80,659
  5. Connecticut: $79,742
  6. Washington: $79,388
  7. New Jersey: $77,677
  8. Rhode Island: $75,966
  9. Maryland: $74,006
  10. Alaska: $73,061
  11. Pennsylvania: $71,479
  12. Hawaii: $70,922
  13. Illinois: $70,705
  14. Oregon: $68,565
  15. Minnesota: $66,561
  16. Delaware: $65,141
  17. Michigan: $64,262
  18. Ohio: $63,082
  19. Vermont: $62,483
  20. New Hampshire: $61,849
  21. Georgia: $60,553
  22. Wyoming: $60,234
  23. Wisconsin: $59,992
  24. Iowa: $58,831
  25. Virginia: $58,506
  26. Colorado: $58,183
  27. Nevada: $58,167
  28. Texas: $57,641
  29. Utah: $57,226
  30. Maine: $57,167
  31. Nebraska: $56,463
  32. New Mexico: $54,923
  33. North Dakota: $54,837
  34. Oklahoma: $54,762
  35. Alabama: $54,271
  36. Kentucky: $54,139
  37. Kansas: $53,619
  38. North Carolina: $53,458
  39. South Carolina: $53,188
  40. Montana: $53,133
  41. Indiana: $53,072
  42. Tennessee: $52,871
  43. Louisiana: $52,472
  44. Arizona: $52,157
  45. Idaho: $51,817
  46. Arkansas: $51,668
  47. Missouri: $51,557
  48. Florida: $51,009
  49. West Virginia: $50,261
  50. South Dakota: $49,547
  51. Mississippi: $46,862
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is the managing editor of District Administration and a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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