Understanding Teacher Compensation: A State-by-State Analysis


Even before the pandemic, the country struggled with a critical teacher shortage that left more than 100,000 classrooms staffed by those not fully qualified to teach in them. Since the pandemic, the need to recruit skilled educators and provide them with the resources to flourish within a school system has only grown more urgent. Wage indicators for public school teachers—such as average annual starting salary, average annual starting salary adjusted for cost of living, and average weekly wage competitiveness—can help contextualize how compensation aids efforts to attract and retain a qualified and diverse teacher workforce across a state.

Synthesizing data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Economic Policy Institute, and National Education Association, the maps and tables in this LPI brief show three teacher wage indicators for each state and how they compare to national averages. For instance, the District of Columbia offers the highest average starting salary and cost-of-living adjusted starting salary but is below the national average in local wage competitiveness. Wyoming, the state with the top wage competitiveness and second-highest cost-of-living adjusted salary, is eleventh in starting salary before cost-of-living adjustments. Policymakers and other decision-makers in the education sector can use their state’s data points to benchmark and inform plans to strengthen the local teacher workforce.

Note: this brief was written by the Learning Policy Institute and posted with their permission.

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