Are teachers underpaid? Teacher pay has been in the news recently as a wave of teacher walkouts and strikes has hit red states like West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and a recent CBS News poll found that most people say yes. Overall, 68 percent of people said teachers were underpaid, but there were striking regional differences, with just 60 percent of people in the northeast agreeing while 76 percent in the south said so. Turns out, whatever state you live in, if you think your state’s teachers are underpaid, you’re right. An Economic Policy Institute analysis shows that:
Over the last two decades, teachers are contributing more and more toward health care and retirement costs as their pay falls further behind. Teacher pay (accounting for inflation) actually fell by $30 per week from 1996 to 2015, while pay for other college graduates increased by $124. In short, the teacher pay gap—the difference between what teachers earn in weekly wages compared with similarly educated and experienced workers—has widened significantly. Even when accounting for benefits, the teacher compensation gap increased by 9 percentage points, to 11.1 percent over that same time frame.
Teacher pay gaps vary considerably across the United States as indicated in the figure.1 The figure below shows within-state ratios of public school teachers to other college graduates. The ratio for the overall United States is 0.77, meaning that, on average, teachers earn just 77 percent of what other college graduates earn in weekly wages. Arizona (0.63) has the lowest ratio (the largest pay gap), while Wyoming (0.99) has the highest ratio (the smallest pay gap).
Check out how your state’s teachers are doing on the graph below.