Special Report

America’s 50 Best Places for Teachers

In the wake of the Nashville shooting, a heated exchange broke out on Thursday between New York Democratic Representative Jamaal Bowman and Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie. The argument concerned Bowman’s frustration over the lack of serious legislation to deal with the nation’s ever-escalating series of mass shootings. (See how many school shootings have occurred every year since 1980.) Part of the discussion centered on Massie’s solution to the crisis, namely that school teachers and staff should be armed. Bowman contested that “more guns lead to more death.”

To introduce guns into schools would likely be a highly divisive measure for what is already an often-disaffected workforce. Public school teachers are among the most dissatisfied and overwhelmed segments of the U.S. labor force. A recent Gallup poll revealed that 44% of faculty and staff in K-12 schools feel burned out at work either “always” or “very often,” the largest share of any industry. The nation-leading burnout rate is fueling a wave of resignations, as teacher quits were up 41% in June 2022 over the previous year.

The problem is likely to get worse before it gets better. According to a survey conducted by the American Federation of Teachers union, about two-in-five teachers plan to quit in the next two years. 

The reasons for the phenomenon are not difficult to understand. For one, public school teachers have long been underpaid. According to the National Education Association, the average starting salary of teachers in the United States is just $41,770. In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic and divisive culture wars have only added to the job’s challenges.  

Still, there are parts of the country where teachers are far more likely to report higher levels of job satisfaction. In these places, teachers are generally well paid, teacher retention rates are often high, and schools are relatively well staffed. 

Using data compiled by Niche, an education research platform, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 50 best public school districts for teachers in 2023. Niche ranked school districts based on a weighted index of eight measures, including teacher absenteeism, average salary, and student-teacher ratios, among others. A full description of each measure and its weighting is available here

In the majority of school districts on this list, the average teacher salary – calculated by Niche using data from the Department of Education on total teacher pay and number of full-time teachers – tops $100,000 annually. Additionally, in most of these districts, the student-teacher ratio is well below the national average of 17:1. 

Both teacher compensation and staffing levels are directly related to school budgets, which are often sourced from local property taxes. And many of the districts on this list are in wealthy areas with a strong tax base. Places like Scarsdale, New York, and Westport, Connecticut, where most households earn over $200,000 annually, are home to districts on this list. (Here is a look at the richest school district in every state.) 

The districts on this list are located mostly in the Midwest and the Northeast, including nine in Illinois and 21 in New York. That these districts are concentrated in a handful of states is no coincidence. State governments have considerable leverage over education policy – including levels of investment – and as a result, overall school quality can vary considerably from one state to the next. (Here is a look at how much each state spends on public schools.)

Click here to see the best places to teach in America.

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