Teaching Profession News in Brief

To Protesters Go the Spoils

By Madeline Will — May 07, 2019 2 min read
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Teachers walked out of their classrooms last school year in protest of low wages—and in some cases, won sizable pay raises. A new analysis by the National Education Association shows the likely extent of their 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 for the 2018-19 school year is $61,730—a 2.1 percent increase.

In states that saw teacher activism last spring, 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, districts received an extra $2 billion in state funding for teacher salaries because of a state supreme court ruling. That resulted in an estimated 31 percent increase in the average teacher salary, according to NEA’s report. (Fourteen related teacher strikes occurred in the state last fall.)

The NEA’s annual report collects salary information from state education departments. The 2018-19 numbers are estimates.

Despite the estimated gains in some states, the 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 past 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. “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.

More demonstrations were scheduled for this spring in North Carolina, Oregon, and South Carolina. And more than 20 governors this year have recommended that their states boost teachers’ pay, according to an Education Week analysis.

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A version of this article appeared in the May 08, 2019 edition of Education Week as To Protesters Go the Spoils

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