May 13, 2024 - News

California's high teacher pay still isn't enough

Map showing average teacher salaries by U.S. state for the 2022-23 school year. The average U.S. teacher salary was $69,544. California, New York and Massachusetts had the highest average salaries at over $90,000 while salaries were lowest in West Virginia, Florida and South Dakota at around $53,000.
Data: National Education Association; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

California teachers have the highest salaries in the country, yet many still struggle financially.

Why it matters: Teachers and their unions are fighting for better pay to keep up with inflation and alleviate chronic staffing shortages, particularly in areas with expensive housing, like San Diego.

The big picture: Despite record salary increases in some states, teachers average making about 5% less than 10 years ago, adjusted for inflation, according to a new National Education Association report.

By the numbers: The average California teacher salary in the 2022-23 academic year was $95,160, up 7.5% from the previous year.

  • That pushed their pay above New York and Massachusetts teachers, whose salaries are also far above the $69,544 national average.

Reality check: Residents need to make more than $240,000 to afford the mortgage on a median-priced, San Diego-area home.

The latest: The San Diego Education Association is negotiating a salary increase for next school year that they say will help fill classroom vacancies.

  • "Our starting salaries are not enough to attract and keep high-quality educators in our schools, especially when people can't afford to live anywhere close to the schools they're teaching in," union president Kyle Weinberg told Axios.

Zoom in: To avoid a teacher strike, the San Diego Unified School Board approved a three-year deal that included a 10% pay raise for employees retroactive to 2022 and a 5% pay raise starting this school year.

Between the lines: San Diego County's 10 largest districts are facing budget shortfalls amid enrollment declines, COVID-19 pandemic aid expiring and shrinking state funding.

What we're watching: More than 550 teachers, counselors, bus drivers and other school employees had received layoff notices as of April 30, mostly at San Diego Unified, but the total number is expected later this month.

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