Teaching Profession

Teacher Salaries Aren’t Keeping Up With Inflation. See How Your State Compares

By Madeline Will — April 26, 2022 | Updated: April 27, 2022 3 min read
Photography of stacked coins.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Soaring inflation is chipping away at any progress made to teacher salaries in recent years, according to a new report by the nation’s largest teachers’ union.

In its annual report that ranks and analyzes teacher salaries and education spending by state, released Tuesday, the National Education Association estimates that the national average teacher salary for the 2021-22 school year is $66,397—a 1.7 percent increase from the previous year. But when adjusted for inflation, the average teacher salary actually decreased by an estimated 3.9 percent over the last decade.

In other words, teachers are making $2,179 less, on average, than they did 10 years ago, when the salaries are adjusted for inflation.

The NEA also found that starting teacher salaries—a key tool for attracting more people into the profession—have declined significantly in real dollars. The average starting teacher salary for this school year was $41,770, a 4 percent decrease, when adjusted for inflation, from two years ago.

"[This] decrease in inflation-adjusted pay could not have come at a worse time,” the NEA said in its report. “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.”

Teacher job satisfaction appears to be at an all-time low, according to a recent nationally representative survey of teachers conducted by the EdWeek Research Center and commissioned by Merrimack College’s school of education. Seventy-four percent of teachers do not believe that their salary is fair for the work they do, according to the survey, up from 65 percent in 2012.

The survey also found that 44 percent of teachers said they’re likely to quit and find a different job within the next two years, although past research suggests that many of the people who indicate plans to quit won’t actually do so.

Teachers “remain dedicated and, of course, committed to their students, but they are also exhausted, they’re overwhelmed, and they’re feeling underappreciated,” said NEA President Becky Pringle on a press call. Paying teachers a “professional salary” would help keep them in the classroom, she added.

Last year, the NEA found that the Red for Ed movement, which began in 2018 as teachers across the country protested and went on strike for higher wages and more school funding, had a demonstrable impact on teacher salaries. Many state legislatures were fueled by teacher activism to pass pay raises.

At the time, the NEA was optimistic that salaries were finally catching up to inflation after the Great Recession. But the economic fallout from the pandemic and the high inflation due to the reopening of the economy have stalled that progress.

“It is a crisis that is a result of the chronic underfunding of public education and the shortchanging of our students,” Pringle said.

See average salaries by state

The NEA primarily collected data from state departments of education to rank teacher salaries across the nation. The 2021-22 numbers are all estimates, and are typically revised slightly the following year.

The states where teachers make the most—and the least—remained unchanged from the previous year: New York, Massachusetts, and California topped the list with the highest salaries, while West Virginia, South Dakota, and Mississippi remained at the bottom.

Hawaii saw the most significant decline—5.5 percent—in its average teacher salary year over year. Osa Tui, Jr., the president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said that was largely because many veteran teachers retired during the pandemic, lowering the average. Also, the state no longer funds job-embedded professional development for teachers due to budget cuts, which reduced teacher pay by almost 1.5 percent, he said.

These rankings do not account for regional cost-of-living differences. Many states in the South and Midwest, where the cost of living is often cheaper, rank near the bottom of the list.

Some states have passed significant teacher pay raises this year, which are not reflected in the data. For example, Mississippi teachers, who are the lowest-paid in the country, will receive an average raise of about $5,100, an increase of more than 10 percent. Alabama teachers will receive raises that range from 4 percent to nearly 21 percent, depending on their years of experience. And New Mexico teachers will see their base salary levels increase by an average of 20 percent.

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Creating Confident Readers: Why Differentiated Instruction is Equitable Instruction
Join us as we break down how differentiated instruction can advance your school’s literacy and equity goals.
Content provided by Lexia Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Download Downloadable: 5 Ways Principals Can Help With Teacher Burnout
This downloadable gives school leaders and teachers various ways to spot and treat teacher burnout.
1 min read
Silhouette of a woman with an icon of battery with low charge and icons such as a scribble line, dollar sign and lightning bolt floating around the blue background.
Canva
Teaching Profession Massages, Mammograms, and Dental Care: How One School Saves Teachers' Time
This Atlanta school offers unique onsite benefits to teachers to help them reduce stress.
3 min read
Employees learn more about health and wellness options during a mini benefits fair put on by The Lovett School in Atlanta on May 8, 2024.
Employees at the Lovett School in Atlanta meet with health benefits representatives during a mini benefits fair on May 8, 2024.
Erin Sintos for Education Week
Teaching Profession Opinion How Two Teachers Helped Me Weave a Dream
A journalist and debut book author dedicates her novel to two of her high school English teachers.
Anne Shaw Heinrich
3 min read
0524 heinrich opinion keller fs
N. Kurbatova / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Data Average Teacher Pay Passes $70K. How Much Is It in Your State?
Teacher pay is growing faster than at any point since the Great Recession. But it's lower than a decade ago when accounting for inflation.
3 min read
Illustration of a man holding oversized money.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty