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NEA Press Release

‘Perfect storm brewing’ as low wages, educator shortages grip schools and colleges nationwide

New NEA reports reveal teachers make thousands less than they did a decade ago
Published: April 24, 2023
This article originally appeared on NEA.org

Educator Pay in Your State

WASHINGTON — Four new reports examining educator pay and school funding from pre-K through college reveal an alarming trend of decreased educator pay and inadequate investment in public schools and universities as teacher turnover has hit historic levels. The reports, released by the National Education Association, show a perfect storm brewing as educator shortages continue to grip schools nationwide.  

NEA’s data reveals only single-digit percentage gains in educator salaries. At the same time, the teacher pay penalty has reached a record highteacher turnover hit new highs across the United States, and staff salaries haven’t kept up with inflation. The data also points to too many students in schools where decision-makers have driven away quality educators by failing to provide competitive salaries and support and placing extraordinary pressure on individual educators to do more and more with less and less.

“Educators who dedicate their lives to students shouldn’t be struggling to support their own families. A career in education must not be a lifetime sentence of financial worry. Who will choose to teach under those circumstances?” asks NEA President Becky Pringle. “There is a perfect storm brewing in public schools. Low wages and a lack of professional respect are leaving too many classrooms without teachers. Every student of every color, background, and ZIP code deserves qualified and caring educators dedicated to connecting with them, nurturing their love of learning, helping them pursue their dreams and fulfilling their true potential.”

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 salary and per pupil expenditures. NEA’s “Teacher Salary Benchmark Report” provides information from 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” looks at 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 2021-22 increased 2% from the previous year to $66,745 and is projected to grow a further 2.6% in 2022-23. However, average teacher pay has failed to keep up with inflation over the past decade. Adjusted for inflation, on average, teachers are making $3,644 (6.4%) less than they did 10 years ago.
  • The national average beginning teacher salary was $42,845. For 2021-2022, the average increase in starting teacher salaries trailed inflation by 6.6 percentage points. When adjusted for inflation, the starting teacher salaries are now $4,552 below the 2008-2009 levels.  
  • Chronic low pay is plaguing the profession. A staggering 16.9% of U.S. school districts pay a top salary below $60,000, while teacher salaries top out over $100,000 in only 13.1% of districts.
  • Almost 40% of all full-time K-12 education support professionals earn less than $25,000 annually. More than a third of all education support professionals (K-12 and higher education combined) working full-time earn less than $25,000 annually.  
  • The average salary for full-time faculty on 9- or 10-month contracts was $93,914 in 2021-22, a 2.1% increase over 2020-21. Adjusting for inflation, faculty lost $4,837 in purchasing power from the prior year.    
  • For every dollar a non-HBCU educator makes, faculty at Historically Black Colleges and Universities were paid just 75 cents in 2022. 
  • The union advantage: Teachers earn 25% more, on average, in states with collective bargaining, and school support staff earn 17% more. In addition, higher education faculty in unions make about $4,000 more than non-union faculty in the same states.      

“Rather than working to address the educator shortages by ensuring educators have the support, respect and professional pay they deserve, too many politicians are driving passionate educators out of the profession,” added Pringle. “These politicians would rather rewrite history and ban books about Dr. Martin Luther King and the Holocaust than solve this issue that parents and educators want them to focus on, which is 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.” 

Follow us on Twitter at @NEAmedia 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 facu