Teacher pay has remained relatively flat over the past decade, complicating school districts’ efforts to attract and retain qualified teachers, according to a new state-by-state report by the National Education Association.
The NEA’s annual survey found that the average teacher salary for 2003-04—the most recent figures available for the report—was $46,752, while the average increase in teacher salaries from 2002-03 to 2003-04 was 2.1 percent.
Since 1993-94, according to the union’s data, teacher salaries have grown by just 2.9 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. During that 10-year span, fifteen states saw real-dollar declines in average teacher salaries, including Alaska (-14.3 percent), Kansas (-10.4 percent), Connecticut (-9.4 percent), Wisconsin (-6.3 percent), and New York (-5.2 percent). The states with the largest increases in teacher salaries in that time frame were Georgia (17.8 percent), Idaho (16.4 percent), North Carolina (14.4 percent), Louisiana (14.3 percent), and Mississippi (11.6 percent).
In a statement on the report, NEA President Reg Weaver said that inadequate funding of schools, along with costly regulations, are making it more difficult for schools to hang on to high-quality teachers.
Not everyone was convinced that the NEA’s data provides an accurate picture of teacher compensation today, however. In a telephone interview with edweek.org, Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, said the report fails to take account of the possible effects of demographic changes in the teaching profession, such as attrition among experienced educators at the top end the pay scale, on overall pay.
Walsh also said the NEA’s report does not adequately reflect the growing number of state and district initiatives that target salary bonuses to teachers who work in high-needs positions or meet designated performance goals.
The NEA’s report estimates that the number of public school teachers will increase by 62,000 this year, with secondary-grade positions accounting for all of the increased demand. At least 2 million teachers will be needed over the next decade as a result of attrition and student-enrollment increases, the union states.
According to a recent public-opinion poll by The Teaching Commission, the majority of Americans, regardless of their political affiliation, say they would be willing to pay more taxes to give teachers higher salaries. An even higher percentage of people surveyed—77 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Independents and Democrats—think higher raises should go to teachers who improve student achievement.