New Data Reveals Gains in Educator Pay, but Chronic Problems Persist

Unions help lead pay increases, but salaries are still far less than they were a decade ago

New Data Reveals Gains in Educator Pay, but Chronic Problems Persist

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WASHINGTON — Four new reports examining educator pay and school funding from pre-K through college reveal that despite modest gains in educator pay last year, chronic problems remain regarding low wages and a lack of professional respect amongst educators. The annual reports released by the National Education Association show that salaries continue to lag woefully behind inflation over the past decade, limiting the ability to attract and retain quality educators amid a looming educator shortage and sagging educator morale due chiefly to low pay and poor working conditions.

The data shows that a combination of elected leaders in some states stepping up and the tireless advocacy of educators and their unions has resulted in the most significant year-over-year teacher pay increase in over a decade. States such as Alabama, Arizona, California, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Washington, amongst others, demonstrated significant progress in teacher pay. Beyond that, states such as Montana and Rhode Island led the way in increasing pay amongst K-12 education support professionals. At the same time, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and North Carolina were a handful of states that led higher education faculty.

However, despite this progress, much work still needs to be done to close the teacher pay penalty, address inadequate pay for all educators, and finally make the investments necessary at the state and local levels to attract and retain quality educators in community public schools.

“Every student, regardless of race or place, deserves caring, qualified, committed educators. And every educator needs our fierce support in helping them inspire imagination, curiosity, and a love of learning and to provide the skills students need to thrive in their brilliance,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “The good news is that through their unions, educators have demanded respect and a seat at the table and have used the power of their collective voice to demand more. More for their students, more professional respect, and more pay. By holding elected officials accountable, educators will earn the respect, competitive wages, and support they deserve to provide their students with the skills needed to fulfill their dreams in safe, just, and welcoming learning environments.”

The data released today include Rankings and Estimates,” a report NEA has produced since the 1960s that is highly respected and widely cited as an authoritative source. The comprehensive report provides comparative state data and national averages for a wide array of public K-12 education statistics, including average teacher salaries and per-student expenditures. NEA’s Teacher Salary Benchmark Report” provides information from over 12,000 local school districts on starting teacher salaries and salaries at other points of the teaching career continuum. The Education Support Professional Earnings Report” offers a pay breakdown of school support staff, also known as education support professionals, working in K-12 public schools and higher education. NEA’s Higher Education Faculty Salary Analysis” examines full-time faculty and graduate assistant salaries at the national, state, and institutional levels.

Data highlights and trends: 

  • The national average public school teacher salary in 2022–2023 increased 4.1% from the previous year to $69,544 and is projected to grow a further 3.1% in 2023–2024. However, even with record-level increases in some states, average teacher pay has failed to keep up with inflation over the past decade. Adjusted for inflation, on average, teachers are making 5.3% less than they did 10 years ago.
  • The national average beginning teacher salary was $44,530. At 3.9%, the increase in the average starting salary was the largest in the 14 years that NEA has been tracking teacher salary benchmarks. However, when adjusted for inflation, the starting teacher salaries are now $4,273 below the 2008–2009 levels.
  • Chronic low pay is plaguing the profession. A staggering 77% of U.S. school districts still pay a starting salary below $50,000 (teachers make less than $40,000 a year in 28.6% of school districts), while teacher salaries top out over $100,000 in only 16.6%.
  • Almost 38% of all full-time K-12 education support professionals earn less than $25,000 annually.
  • The average salary for full-time faculty on 9- or 10-month contracts was $97,762 in 2022–2023, a 4% increase over 2021–2022. Adjusting for inflation, faculty lost $1,611 of their purchasing power from the prior year, a cumulative loss since 2020–2021 of 7%.
  • For every dollar that a non-HBCU educator makes, Historically Black Colleges and Universities faculty were paid just 75 cents in 2023.
  • The union advantage: Teachers earn 26% more, on average, in states with collective bargaining, and education support professionals earn 16% more. In addition, higher education faculty in unions make 16% more at comprehensive institutions and almost 28% more at community colleges than non-union faculty in the same states.
  • The starting salary of teachers in states with a bargaining law is $1,653 more than in states without a bargaining law. Top pay is $12,998 higher in states with bargaining laws. In states with bargaining laws covering education support staff, the average earnings are $38,167, compared to states where bargaining is prohibited, the average school support staff earns $32,308.

“While some elected leaders are doing what is right, too many students remain in schools where decision-makers have driven away quality educators by failing to provide competitive salaries and support, disrespecting the profession, and placing extraordinary pressure on individual educators to do more and more with less and less,” added Pringle. “By not stepping up to the plate, they are hurting students’ futures and ignoring the pleas of parents who want them to focus on the critical needs of our students by attracting and retaining teachers, school support staff and higher education faculty and staff so our students have the educators they need and deserve to live into their brilliance. We can and must do better.”

For additional information about Rankings and Estimates and related NEA reports, please visit www.nea.org/educatorpay.

Follow us on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @NEAToday and @BeckyPringle

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, students preparing to become teachers, healthcare workers, and public employees. Learn more at www.nea.org.

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