Aug 25, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Teacher salaries have barely budged over the last 25 years

Data: EPI; Map: Axios Visuals

The average weekly inflation-adjusted wage of public school teachers increased just $29 from 1996 to 2021, per a report by the Economic Policy Institute.

Why it matters: Teachers have made less than their non-teacher peers over the last few decades and it's a trend that will likely continue — and contribute to the already declining teacher pool.

Driving the news: While the weekly wage of public school teachers, adjusted for inflation, increased by $29 from 1996 to 2021, wages increased by $445 for other college graduates over the same period.

  • The institute, which has been tracking the "teacher pay penalty" for 18 years, found that it reached a record high last year, with teachers earning 23.5% less than other college graduates.
  • "That means that, on average, teachers earned just 76.5 cents on the dollar compared with what similar college graduates earned working in other professions," the researchers, which published the report earlier this month, wrote.

Zoom in: The teacher weekly wage penalty is more than 20% in 28 states, with Colorado, Oklahoma, Virginia, Arizona and Alabama all having the highest wage penalties, all above 30%.

  • Rhode Island, Wyoming and New Jersey have the smallest wage penalties, each under 5%.

The big picture: The analysis comes as school districts nationwide have been taking desperate steps to get enough teachers in their classrooms for this school year.

  • Leading up to this school year, schools considered everything from financial incentives to suspensions of licensing requirements to fill their classrooms, Axios Local reported earlier this month.

Between the lines: The institute accounted for other benefits that teachers have, including retirement plans and health insurance, noting that "teachers generally receive a higher share of their compensation as benefits than other professionals do, partially offsetting the weekly wage penalty they face."

Yes, but: The benefits package is usually not enough to offset the wage penalty, per the analysis, and including the benefits package still brings the wage penalty to 14.2%.

The bottom line: "Among those students who would like to dedicate their careers to teaching, many are undoubtedly choosing to forgo a public school teaching career in lieu of a better-paying career choice," the researchers write.

Go deeper... School districts across America will do anything for more teachers

Go deeper