Is your state a leader—or is it lagging behind—in paying first-time teachers?

'This decrease in inflation-adjusted pay could not have come at a worse time,' a teacher's union reports.
By: | May 5, 2022
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Starting teacher salaries have sunk to their lowest levels since the Great Recession as inflation is erasing years of gains. This downward trend presents yet another challenge for district leaders who are scrambling to find new recruits to fill vacant classrooms.

Only about 600 districts paid their starting teachers more than $40,000 per year in 2020-21. Districts employing some 700,000 new teachers paid less, according to new data released by the NEA labor union. “This decrease in inflation-adjusted pay could not have come at a worse time,” the NEA report’s authors said. “Though multiple factors are driving what has been a years-long teacher shortage, insufficient pay is certainly one of the primary reasons that fewer people are entering the profession and more are leaving.”

In the state with the highest average wage, a large majority of new teachers earn at least $50,000 annually. The two states with the lowest salaries (see list below) offer around $33,000 or less. If federal law treated teachers like other professionals, districts in states at the bottom of the scale would have to pay overtime to early career educators, the report says.

Starting teachers with master’s degrees earn, on average, almost 10% more than less-credentialed rookies. But in some states, such as Texas, the master’s bonus drops to just 2%. The NEA also points out that in other states, such as Florida, that bonus doesn’t equate to substantial longer-term raises. Salaries for new Florida teachers with bachelor’s degrees jumped by 13% in 2020-21 but because the state tends not to raise pay for years at a time, salaries for the most experienced teachers with bachelor’s degrees rose by less than 2%. The NEA’s research also notes that new teachers are far more likely to start with higher salaries in states that allow collective bargaining.

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Teachers entering the profession just prior to the pandemic earned about 19% less than similarly-skilled college graduates, another recent analysis found. Closing this gap would require starting pay to increase by $10,000, a level paid by only around 10% of school districts, the NEA reported.

Here’s where each state ranks for highest pay for new teachers:

  1. Washington, D.C.: $56,313
  2. New Jersey: $54,053
  3. Washington: $51,040
  4. Hawaii: $50,123
  5. California: $49,933
  6. Alaska: $49,907
  7. Maryland: $48,510
  8. Massachusetts: $48,372
  9. New York: $47,618
  10. Connecticut: $47,477
  11. Pennsylvania: $46,991
  12. Wyoming: $46,826
  13. Rhode Island: $44,592
  14. Texas: $44,527
  15. Utah: $44,349
  16. Florida: $44,040
  17. Delaware: $43,448
  18. Virginia: $42,251
  19. Louisiana: $42,185
  20. New Mexico: $41,737
  21. Nevada: $41,277
  22. Minnesota: $41,234
  23. Illinois: $41,228
  24. Alabama: $41,163
  25. North Dakota: $40,907
  26. Vermont: $40,810
  27. Arizona: $40,554
  28. South Dakota: $40,128
  29. Idaho: $39,842
  30. New Hampshire: $39,737
  31. Oregon: $39,338
  32. Kansas: $39,100
  33. Tennessee: $39,024
  34. Wisconsin: $38,961
  35. Georgia: $38,692
  36. Iowa: $38,515
  37. Ohio: $38,231
  38. Indiana: $38,158
  39. Oklahoma: $38,074
  40. West Virginia: $37,987
  41. Michigan: $37,820
  42. South Carolina: $37,704
  43. Maine: $37,580
  44. Kentucky: $37,373
  45. North Carolina: $37,127
  46. Mississippi: $36,653
  47. Nebraska: $36,491
  48. Arkansas: $35,803
  49. Colorado: $35,724
  50. Missouri: $33,234
  51. Montana: $32,495

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