States where educators paid the most and least

Thomas C. Frohlich, 24/7 Wall Street
Published 11:30 a.m. ET May 16, 2018

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Just the FAQs

Teachers are the driving force behind our educational system. They prepare our children for the workforce, for higher education, and for life in general. The profession is widely considered one of the most important and valuable services that contribute to the betterment of society.

Despite being so highly valued, teachers are paid significantly less than other college-educated workers. And though the importance of educating children cannot be overstated, public school funding is a major problem in many, mostly low income, communities across the country.

The recent and ongoing teacher strikes in states like Arizona and Oklahoma (two of the lowest-paying states for teachers) demonstrates that in some states pay structures for teachers may be a serious problem.

The median annual salary across all teaching professions is $57,949, about $3,000 below the median annual salary of $60,996 across all workers with a bachelor’s degree, and nearly $15,000 below the median annual salary of $72,852 across workers with a master’s degree. Approximately 56% of teachers have a master’s degree.

Using U.S. Labor Department data, 24/7 Wall Street reviewed the median annual salary for elementary, middle and high school teachers in every state. Salary figures include private and public school teachers.

More:America’s best high schools in 2018, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report

More:Study: Despite modest income, nearly all teachers pay for class needs out of own pocket

More:How generous are teacher benefits and do they make up for lower pay?

ID=349649811. New York

2. Connecticut

3. California

4. Alaska

5. Massachusetts

 (Photo: Thinkstock)

6. Rhode Island

7. New Jersey

8. Oregon

9. Maryland

10. Washington

11. Virginia

12. Pennsylvania

13. Michigan

14. Minnesota

15. Delaware

16. Illinois

17. Ohio

18. Hawaii

19. Vermont

20. Wyoming

21. New Hampshire

22. Texas

23. Wisconsin

24. Nevada

25. Nebraska

26. Georgia

27. New Mexico

28. Iowa

29. Utah

30. Kentucky

31. Maine

32. Montana

33. South Carolina

34. Colorado

35. North Dakota

36. Alabama

37. Indiana

38. Tennessee

39. Arkansas

40. Kansas

41. Louisiana

42. Florida

43. Missouri

44. Idaho

45. West Virginia

46. North Carolina

47. Mississippi

48. Arizona

49. South Dakota

50. Oklahoma

Detailed findings and methodology

Teacher salaries are just one component of a state’s overall public schools spending, and states with low teacher salaries also have relatively low per-pupil expenditures. In the 25 states with higher median annual teacher salaries, per-pupil expenditures exceed the average expenditure of $12,526 per pupil nationwide. Only five states on the lower end of the teacher pay spectrum have per-pupil expenditures that exceed national average spending.

State spending on education, like most other programs and services, largely depends on its revenue.

States that pay teachers relatively little and that have relatively low per-pupil expenditures simply may not be able to spend more. In fact, in states with low teacher salaries, public educational investments tend to be relatively large as a percentage of overall public spending. The opposite is true among states with high teacher salaries — educational investments represent smaller shares of overall public spending. But because revenue is very high compared with other states, education spending is also high.

There is not a strong connection between school resources and student outcomes, although spending under a certain amount can result in poor outcomes. Having at least up-to-date facilities and minimal educational resources can support better test scores, higher graduation rates, and greater future success. But most teachers do not pursue teaching careers in order to make money, which is one of the many reasons outcomes vary considerably across the United States regardless of money spent on education.

To give one example: The median annual salaries of teachers in Iowa and New Mexico, the states with the highest and lowest high school graduation rates, are about the same and not dramatically different from the national median teacher salary.

To identify the states where teachers are paid the most (and the least), 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the median annual salary for elementary, middle, and secondary schools teachers at public and private institutions in every state from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produced by the U.S. Labor Department. Median salaries for all workers in each state are also from the OES. Statewide per-pupil expenditures in every state as of 2015 are for public schools only and came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s survey of school finances. There are many high school graduation rates. We chose the newer adjusted cohort graduation rate, which measures the percentage of public school students who attain a regular high school diploma within four years of starting ninth grade. The cohort is adjusted by adding students who transfer in during those four years and by subtracting students who transfer out. Cost of living figures and came from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and are for 2015, the latest year for which data is available.

24/7 Wall Street is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news and commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

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