With schools reopening across the country, teachers and students will inevitably be at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Educators, who are responsible for molding the future generation, are protesting or threatening to strike in several states because they don’t feel safe physically returning to the classroom.
Though teaching is considered one of the more important jobs, teachers are not among the best paid jobs. Teachers have repeatedly had to take to the streets to get more funds for their schools, fight for better conditions, and higher wages. The teachers strikes in Arizona, West Virginia, and Oklahoma in 2018 demonstrated how in some states pay for teachers, as well as funding for schools in general, might be insufficient.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the median annual salary for elementary, middle, and secondary schools teachers in every state from the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produced by the U.S. Labor Department to determine the states where teachers are paid the most and least.
The U.S. median annual salary across K-12 teaching professions is $64,524, but it varies significantly by state from just under $45,000 to more than $85,000.
Additionally, the annual salary for teachers varies geographically. Ten of the 15 states with the lowest pay for educators are in the South. States with the highest pay for teachers tend to be on the West Coast and the Northeast.
Teacher salaries are just one component of a state’s overall public schools spending, and states with low teacher salaries also have relatively low education expenditures per-pupil. Among the 25 states with lowest median annual teacher salaries, per-pupil expenditures do not exceed the average expenditure of $20,722 per pupil nationwide in all but two states. Only four states on the higher end of the teacher pay range spend less than the national average per student.
In states that pay teachers relatively little the average wage for all occupations is also relatively lower. In fact, in only one of the 25 states with the lowest annual average salary for teachers, the average wage for all jobs is higher than the national average of $53,490.
Though being a teacher comes with many challenges, only one of which is financial, teachers are not leaving the profession. In fact, the number of all elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers is projected to grow, albeit not by a lot, between 2019 and 2029 — these are America’s fastest growing jobs.
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