Public school teacher salaries fall below average in most states

Public school teacher salaries fall below average in most states
© Thinkstock

Rhode Island is the only state in 2017 to pay public school teachers a salary above the average worker, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Labor Department data from the early 1990s showed that teachers and support staff in public schools made above-average paychecks in 26 of 42 states but earnings have significantly dropped since that time. The department only looked at the 42 states for which it has comparable data.

Wages in all of those states have fallen in recent years, including a big drop in Wisconsin. In the 1990s, teachers in that state earned about 1.2 times the average worker salary, but that has fallen to 0.9 times the state average.

ADVERTISEMENT

States like Alabama, West Virginia and Mississippi — where teacher pay was already below the statewide average — saw the smallest drops in wages.

Statewide funding for public schools has also taken a hit in recent years. The Post noted that states reduced their education budgets in 2008 amidst a recession, as well as in 2016.

The rising costs of other state-funded programs such as health care and prison have also cut into budgets for education.

Other industries that have seen similar drops in salaries brought on in the age of the internet, including electronics retailers, delivery drivers and warehouse workers, The Post reported.

Female teachers earned 15.6 percent less in 2017 than female workers in comparable jobs, according to an evaluation of Labor Department data from the Economic Policy Institute. Male teachers were earning 26.8 percent less compared to other male workers.

The new figures on teacher salaries comes after a series of successful teacher strikes in 2018 in ArizonaColoradoWest Virginia and other states over wages, class sizes and resources.

About 30,000 striking Los Angeles teachers returned to classrooms last week after their union and the city's school district reached a deal. The agreement reached increases teacher pay, adds support staff and reduces classroom sizes. 

Updated at 1:36 p.m.