The U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the right to an education. Though the federal government has set some academic standards, education policy is set largely at the state and local levels. State governments have authority over public school curriculums, teaching methods, instructional materials, and, in conjunction with local districts, teacher pay.
Without national compensation standards, average salaries for teachers across the country vary considerably. Depending on the state, the average teacher salary ranges from as little as $45,300 to more than $85,000. The disparity in average teacher salary is less stark after adjusting for cost of living, yet it is still substantial, with a nearly $25,000 difference between the state with the highest average and the state with the lowest.
Using data on elementary, middle, and high school pay from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states paying teachers the most and the least. States are ranked based on weighted average annual compensation for all teachers, adjusted for cost of living. The states paying teachers the most tend to be concentrated in the Northeast, while those that pay the least tend to be in the Southern and Western United States. Nationwide, the average annual salary for teachers stands at $65,977.
Teacher compensation accounts for a large portion of annual education spending, and partially as a result, the states paying their teachers the least also tend to be those spending less overall on education, on a per student basis. Depending on the state, total per pupil education spending ranges from about $7,600 to over $24,000. Here is a look at the school district where students are least likely to succeed in every state.
While the relationship between education spending and student performance is complicated, some research suggests that greater spending leads to better outcomes. There are notable exceptions, but in general, states that pay teachers higher salaries tend to have high school graduation rates higher than the 85.3% national average. Here is a look at the best public high school in each state.