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Teaching Profession Data

A $60K Starting Salary for Teachers? Not a Single State Meets the Bar

By Libby Stanford — February 24, 2023 1 min read
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Lawmakers across the political spectrum have made raising teacher pay a top priority in 2023.

Democrats in both the U.S. House and Senate have introduced bills aiming to get teachers to a $60,000 base salary. President Joe Biden called on lawmakers to give public school teachers a raise during his State of the Union address earlier this month. And Republican governors, including Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, have touted proposals to raise teacher pay while in office.

“We should ensure that parents continue to play an active role in their kids’ education, and we should ensure that teachers are paid what they deserve,” Reeves, whose state ranks last in teacher pay, said in his state of the state address on Jan. 30. “It is my firm belief that Mississippi has some of the best teachers in the nation, and their salaries should reflect that.”

The attention on teacher salaries comes as many school districts are struggling to hire new teachers or bring prospective teachers into the profession. It also follows decades of stagnation on teacher salaries, with those in the profession often earning far less than others with similar education levels.

But where exactly does teacher pay stand? Education Week compiled the latest figures to find out.

Average teacher salaries have barely risen since the 1990s when adjusted for inflation.

$65,090   The average public school teacher salary in the 2020-21 school year, the most recent year reported by the National Center for Education Statistics. The 2020-21 salary is actually $519 lower than the 2019-20 average salary when inflation is taken into account.

$83   How much average public school teacher pay has risen since the 1989-90 school year, when adjusted for inflation.

$1,278   How much less teachers made on average during the 2020-21 school year than a decade earlier.

$222   The difference in average pay between secondary and elementary school teachers. Secondary school teachers made $63,959 on average in the 2016-17 school year, the last year of data available for that level. Elementary teachers earned $63,737 that school year.

$54,000   The expected median salary for education majors with bachelor’s degrees by the time they reach age 59, according to a 2018 study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. That number is lower than it is for all other majors. Education majors would need a graduate degree to achieve the median earnings of an average person with a bachelor’s degree, according to the study.

27   The number of years it takes on average for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree to make $75,000, according to a 2021 National Council on Teacher Quality study. It would take 24 years for a teacher with a master’s degree to reach $75,000.

Teacher pay varies widely by state and region.

22   The number of states that paid teachers an average of at least $60,000 in 2020-21, according to data from the National Education Association’s Rankings and Earnings Report. Democratic lawmakers have pointed to $60,000 as the ideal minimum salary for teachers in bills in both the House and the Senate.

0   The number of states where teachers earned a starting salary of at least $60,000 in 2020-21, according to an NEA report on teacher salary benchmarks. Montana had the lowest starting salary that year, at $32,495, and Washington, D.C., had the highest, at $56,313.

$66,432   NEA’s projected 2021-22 average teacher salary, which would be a 1.8 percent increase over the association's estimated 2020-21 average of $65,293.

17   The number of governors who mentioned raising teacher pay in their 2023 state of the state speeches, according to the Education Commission of the States, an organization that researches and tracks education policy.

New York teachers earn the most.

$90,222   The average salary for teachers living in New York in 2020-21, according to the NEA. The salary is the highest average salary, followed by Massachusetts’, with an $86,755 average salary in 2020-21.

$46,862   The average salary for teachers living in Mississippi in 2020-21, which is the lowest average salary for that year, according to the NEA. Mississippi lawmakers passed the state’s largest increase to starting salaries last year with a $5,140 bonus that would increase teachers’ starting salaries from $37,123 to $41,638, according to Mississippi Today. The next lowest average salary is in South Dakota with $49,547.

$50,000-$60,000   The pay range that the majority of states fell into in 2020-21, according to the NEA. There were 27 states with average teacher salaries in this range that year.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 15, 2023 edition of Education Week as A $60K Starting Salary For Teachers? Not a Single State Meets the Bar

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