Teaching Profession

See How the Strikes and Protests Affected Teacher Salaries

By Madeline Will — April 29, 2019 2 min read
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Last school year, teachers walked out of their classrooms in protest of low wages—and in some cases won sizable pay raises. Now, a new analysis by the National Education Association shows the likely extent of teachers’ victories.

The national average public school teacher salary for 2017-18 was $60,477—a 1.6 percent increase from the previous year. NEA estimates that the national average salary for the 2018-19 school year is $61,730—a 2.1 increase.

In states that saw teacher activism in the spring of 2018, like Arizona, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, the average teacher salary is estimated to have increased, sometimes significantly. For example, Oklahoma teachers saw an estimated 13 percent increase from last year to this school year, after the state legislature passed a historic $6,100 pay raise in response to teachers staging a walkout. West Virginia teachers, who kicked off the wave of activism with a nine-day strike in February and March 2018, saw an estimated 4.5 percent increase from 2017-18 to 2018-19.

In Washington state, school districts received an additional $2 billion in state funding for teacher salaries due to a state supreme court ruling. That resulted in an estimated 31 percent increase in the average teacher salary, according to NEA’s report. (There were also 14 related teachers strikes that happened in the fall.)

The NEA’s annual report collects salary information from state departments of education. The 2018-19 numbers are all estimates, and are typically revised slightly the following year. Here are the NEA’s rankings for all 50 states and the District of Columbia:

Despite the estimated gains in some states, the NEA analysis shows that teacher pay overall has not kept pace with inflation. While this year’s average salary is up nearly $6,400 from a decade ago, when the effects of inflation are considered, the average salary has actually decreased by 4.5 percent over the last 10 years, the report says.

“When you look at the cold, hard numbers here, you can see the pay gap, you can see the gender gap, you can see the respect gap,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, on a press call. “The numbers speak for themselves, and you can see that our teacher pay over the last decade has continued to erode.”

A recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (which counts the NEA as one of its funders) found that teachers make less than similarly educated professionals. The weekly wage penalty for being a teacher had reached a record 21.4 percent last year.

Eskelsen García noted that the profession is overwhelmingly composed of women, who make 80 cents to every dollar men make across all U.S. jobs. “No one can convince me that that’s a coincidence,” she said.

She also praised the Red for Ed movement: “Educators are advocating for fair pay,” Eskelsen García said, adding that low wages have deterred prospective teachers from entering the profession and forced some teachers to quit.

There are additional teacher demonstrations scheduled for this spring: North Carolina, Oregon, and South Carolina. And more than 20 governors this year have recommended that their state boost teachers’ pay, according to an Education Week analysis. States like Oklahoma, Arizona, and North Carolina could see additional gains next year, pending legislative approval.

Image: Highland Arts Elementary School kindergarten teacher Melissa Perez participated in a walk-in in Mesa, Ariz., last year. —Matt York/AP-File

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.