Is teacher pay in your state providing educators with a living wage?

A recent analysis by the NEA labor union shows where gaps persist between teachers' pay and similarly qualified professionals.
By: | May 12, 2022
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Inflation is eating away at the salaries of K-12 teachers to the point where they are earning less than they were a decade ago. And the rising cost of living during the pandemic is “undoing all the gains made over the previous two years,” according to a recent analysis by the NEA labor union.

The average teacher salary climbed from about $56,000 in 2013 to just over $66,000 for the 2021-2022 school year. But the value of those wages drops by about $2,200 when adjusted for inflation. The analysis also accuses some states of “short-changing” experienced teachers. 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.

Inflation has also driven starting teachers’ salaries down by about $1,700 compared to 2008-2009 levels. Another pressure on teacher pay is what the NEA calls a wage penalty compared to other college-educated professionals with similar credentials and qualifications. For new teachers, this gap stands at just over 19%.


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“After persevering through the hardest school years in recent memory, our educators are exhausted and feeling less and less optimistic about their futures,” NEA President Becky Pringle said. “If we want to reverse course and keep qualified teachers in the classroom and caring professionals in schools—and all of us should want this—then we must increase educator pay across the board.”

A minimum living wage is the income needed for a family of one adult and one child to have a modest but adequate standard of living in the most affordable metro area, according to the Economic Policy Institute. And there are wide gaps in how the average salary in each compares with the minimum living wage. Teachers in the top states make $30,000 over the minimum living wage, while teachers at the bottom of the scale bring home $10,000 less.

Here’s how each state ranks for average teacher salary compared to the minimum living wage:

  1. New York: +$35,352 (Avg. salary:$90,222/Minimum living wage: $54,870)
  2. California: +$31,786 ($85,856/$54,070)
  3. Washington: +26,739 ($79,388/$52,649)
  4. Massachusetts: +$25,433 ($86,755/$61,322)
  5. Pennsylvania: +$23,789 ($71,479/$47,690)
  6. Maryland: +$23,623 ($74,006/$50,383)
  7. Illinois: +$17,896 ($70,705/$52,809)
  8. Michigan: +$17,027 ($64,262/$47,235)
  9. Connecticut: +$16,439 ($79,742/$63,303)
  10. Ohio: +$15,322 ($63,082/$47,760)
  11. Rhode Island: +$14,644 ($75,966/$61,322)
  12. Minnesota+$14,278 ($66,561/$52,283)
  13. Texas: +$13,865 ($57,641/$43,776)
  14. New Jersey: +$13,335 ($77,677/$64,342)
  15. Georgia: +$12,915 ($60,553/$47,638)
  16. Virginia: +$9,489 ($58,506/$49,017)
  17. Alaska: +$9,105 ( $73,061/$63,956)
  18. New Mexico: +$8,168 ($54,923/$46,755)
  19. South Carolina: +$7,711 ($53,188/$45,477)
  20. Utah: +$7,540 ($57,226/$49,686)
  21. Oregon: +$7,520 ($68,565/$61,045)
  22. Oklahoma: +$7,440 ($54,762/$47,322)
  23. Arkansas +$7,205 ($51,668/$44,463)
  24. Iowa: +$6,956 ($58,831/$51,875)
  25. Wisconsin: +$6,753 ($59,992/$53,239)
  26. Tennessee: +$6,126 ($52,871/$46,745)
  27. Alabama: +$6,160 ($54,271/$48,111)
  28. Delaware: +$5,163 ($65,141/$59,978)
  29. North Carolina: +$5,112 ($53,458/$48,346)
  30. Kentucky: +$4,905 ($54,139/$49,324)
  31. Missouri:+$4,613 ($51,557/$46,944)
  32. Nebraska: +$4,331 ($56,463/$52,132)
  33. North Dakota:+$4,302 ($54,837/$50,535)
  34. Colorado: +$4,140 ($58,183/$53,043)
  35. Louisiana: +$3,005 ($52,472/$49,467)
  36. Maine: +$2,860 ($57,167/$54,307)
  37. Wyoming: +$2,529 ($60,234/$57,705)
  38. Indiana: +$2,510 ($53,072/$50,562)
  39. Idaho: +$2,474 ($51,817/$49,343)
  40. Washington, D.C.: +$1,755 ($80,659/$78,904)
  41. Florida: +$1,384 ($51,009/$49,625)
  42. Nevada: +$1,376 ($58,167/$56,791)
  43. Kansas: +$826 ($53,619/$52,793)
  44. New Hampshire: +$398 ($61,849/$61,451)
  45. Montana: -$48 ($53,133/$53,181)
  46. West Virginia: -$151 ($50,261/$50,412)
  47. Mississippi -$280 ($46,862/$47,142)
  48. Arizona: -$317 ($52,157/$52,528)
  49. South Dakota:-$1,731 ($49,547/$51,278)
  50. Hawaii -$11,236 ($70,922/$82,158)
  51. Vermont: -$22,471 ($62,483/$84,954)

To provide guidance for administrators grappling with staff shortages and recruitment, District Administration recently reported on how each state ranks for average teacher pay and starting teacher pay.