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Adjusted for Inflation, Average Teacher Salary Down 4.5 percent, NEA Report Finds

May 20, 2019

The national average teacher salary, adjusted for inflation, has decreased 4.5 percent over the past decade, according to the annual NEA Rankings and Estimates: Ranking of the States 2018 and Estimates of School Statistics 2019, released in late April.

“Across the nation educator pay continues to erode, expanding the large pay gap between what teachers earn and what similarly educated and experienced professionals in other fields earn,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Educators don’t do this work to get rich, they do this work because they believe in students. But their pay is not commensurate with the dedication and expertise they bring to the profession.”

NEA also collects data on teacher starting salaries and every year, the data show that starting teacher salaries are too low and, for the last decade, still lower than pre-Recession levels. This year is no different. The 2017–18 average teacher starting salary is $39,249. After adjusting for inflation, beginning teacher salaries have decreased by 2.91 percent in the last decade.

The states where teachers have lost the most ground include Wisconsin and Michigan, where Scott Walker and Rick Snyder gutted bargaining rights and stripped union protections. Both governors were voted out last election. Teacher pay also has dropped dramatically in Indiana, where lawmakers require school districts to replace objective salary schedules with harmful merit pay systems.

Teachers are paid 21.4% percent less than similarly educated and experienced professionals, according to a recent Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report, which found that the “teacher pay gap” reached a record high in 2018. This difference between teacher pay and other college-educated professionals’ pay is partly due to the persistent gender gap in wages – across all full-time jobs in the U.S., women earn about 80 percent of men’s salaries. Historically, teaching has been a profession made up mostly of women. Today, 76.6 percent of educators are women.

The report also reveals that 63 percent of reported public school districts still offer a starting salary below $40,000. Nearly 300 districts pay first-year teachers less than $30,000 a year. And it’s not just first-year teachers: in some states, teachers will never earn professional pay. In 1,025 school districts, even the highest paid teachers, most with advanced degrees and decades of experience in the classroom, are paid less than $50,000.

“How can we recruit and retain quality teachers for our students if we don’t pay them what they’re worth?” asked Eskelsen García. “It is time to show respect to those professionals who dedicate their lives to students and building the future of our communities. Professional work deserves professional pay.”

The NEA report provides comparative state data and national averages on a host of important public education statistics, teacher salaries, student enrollment, and revenue and expenditures for the most recent school year.

Highlights from this year’s report and NEA’s salary data:

Teacher Salary

  1. The national average teacher salary increased from $59,539 in 2016–17 to $60,477 in 2017–18.
  2. Average teacher salaries in 2017–18 ranged from a high of $84,227 in New York to a low of $44,926 in Mississippi.
  3. If one does not adjust for inflation, the national average teacher salary has increased by 11.2 percent since 2008–09. However, after adjusting for inflation, the national average teacher salary has decreased by 4.5 percent over the past decade.
  4. Sixty-three percent of reported public school districts still offer a starting salary below $40,000.

Expenditure per Student

  1. The U.S. average per-student expenditure in 2017–18, based on fall enrollment, was $12,602. The following states had the highest per-student expenditures: New York ($23,894), District of Columbia ($21,001), and New Jersey ($20,171). Idaho ($6,809), Utah ($7,187), and Arizona ($8,123) had the lowest.
  2. In 2018–19, expenditures per student are projected to increase by 2.5 percent to $12,920, up from $12,602 in 2017–18. This compares with a 2.7 percent increase in total current expenditures.
  3. Over the last decade, the average per-student expenditure has risen by 20.6 percent from $10,715 to $12,920. After inflation adjustment, the expenditure per student in enrollment has increased by 3.3 percent.

School Revenues

School funding continues to be state and local oriented. In 2016–17, 47.0 percent of public school revenue came from state funds, while 47.1 percent came from state funds in 2017–18. Local funds contributed similar percentages in both 2016–17 (45.1 percent) and 2017–18 (45.4 percent). In those two years, federal funds constituted 7.9 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively, of K–12 education revenue.

NEA has produced the Rankings and Estimates report for more than 70 years. The complete report can be found at http://www.nea.org/home/44479.htm

 

Technical note: Rankings data come primarily through collaborative efforts with state Departments of Education. Estimates are determined through recognized statistical analysis procedures, as presented in the methodology section of the report.

Source: National Education Association



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