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Press Release

NEA Unveils New Nationwide Data on Educator Pay and School Funding

Average national teacher salary is lower today than ten years ago, contributing to national educator shortage
Published: April 26, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the 3-million-member National Education Association released a set of detailed reports unveiling alarming new data about educator pay and other key findings related to what is contributing to the nationwide educator shortage.

The reports make clear that the current educator staffing crisis and trajectory—when coupled with the pandemic, insufficient teacher salaries, and the chronic underfunding of our public schools—is unsustainable. And, unless we reverse course and start treating educators with the respect their profession deserves, it will have a direct impact on students and families across the country.

“For decades, America’s educators have been chronically underappreciated and shamefully underpaid,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “Throughout this persistent and ongoing pandemic, they have demonstrated their commitment to all students, no matter their ZIP code, the language they speak, or the gender with which they identify. After persevering through the hardest school years in recent memory, our educators are exhausted and feeling less and less optimistic about their futures.  

If we want to reverse course and keep qualified teachers in the classroom and caring professionals in schools, then we must increase educator pay across the board and expand access to collective bargaining and union membership for all those working in public education. The reality is that educators with collective bargaining laws in their states make more than their non-collective bargaining peers. We encourage more state and local lawmakers to follow the lead of Mississippi and New Mexico, as well as Jefferson County, Colorado, and Minneapolis. They took strides to address educator shortages by authorizing pay increases for educators,” said Pringle.

The four separate reports released today by the NEA, include:

  • Rankings and Estimates, which provides a wide array of school funding statistics and includes the average teacher salary by state and nationally. 
  • Teacher Salary Benchmark Report, which provides information from nearly 12,000 local school districts on starting teacher salaries and salaries at other points of the teaching career continuum. 
  • ESP Earnings Report, which offers a breakdown of educational support professional (ESP) pay in K-12 and higher education. 
  • Higher Education Faculty Salary Analysis, which looks at full-time faculty and graduate assistant salaries at the national, state, and institutional level. 

Educator Pay in Your State

The Rankings and Estimates Report, which has been produced by the NEA for more than 70 years, estimates that the average national classroom teacher salary is $66,397 for the 2021-2022 school year—a figure that fails to keep up with inflation. Despite continuing to nurture and educate students amid unprecedented pandemic conditions, teachers are shockingly bringing home $2,179 less per year, on average, than they did a decade ago (when adjusted for inflation).

When it comes to the average starting salary for teachers, the Teacher Salary Benchmark Report estimates that for the 2020-2021 school year, first year teachers earned on average just $41,770. When adjusted for inflation, this represents a 4% decrease from the previous year. And furthermore, the Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) most recent analysis of these pay statistics shows that teachers on average make 19.2% less annually when compared to similarly educated workers

“I work 70 hours a week, teaching and preparing lessons, while also trying to find time for my own two little girls. It’s either teacher guilt or mom guilt! I usually grade papers at the kitchen table, and I fear that I’m neglecting my own kids who need my attention,” said Lakeisha Patterson, who teaches reading, writing and social studies in Deer Lake, Texas.  “That’s a struggle that so many educators are going through right now. We all go above and beyond, but there’s a lack of empathy, a lack of pay, and a lack of support. I don’t think people realize the mass exodus from the teaching profession that’s on the way.”

These troubling trends hold even more true for educational support professionals (ESPs), including teachers' aides, custodians, cafeteria workers, and school bus drivers. For the first time this year, NEA has released the ESP Earnings Report, which reveals that these crucial public school employees are earning an average of at least $10,000 below a basic living wage in all but one state across the country. In fact, more than a third of all ESPs working full time earn less than $25,000 per year.

These news findings come just months after a NEA survey revealed that 55% of educators are ready to leave the profession earlier than planned and as new data shows teacher job satisfaction is at an all-time low. These shocking numbers make clear that after persevering through the hardest school year in recent memory and confronting an unprecedented staffing crisis across nearly every job category, chronically underfunded public schools, and politicians trying to censor what they teach or punishing them for doing their jobs, educators are growing more disillusioned and exhausted every day. 

“I was drawn to special education because my brother has significant needs and growing up, I wanted to be a positive change for kids like him," said Audra DeRidder, a special education resource teacher from Iron Mountain, Michigan. “Five years after graduating from Iron Mountain Public Schools, I returned to my district as an elementary special education teacher. The first year, I made $30K. It’s not sustainable. I have had friends walk away from teaching because they cannot live on this salary. The only reason I can stay in teaching is that I’m married, and we have a two-income household. But with a toddler and student loans piling up, I also don’t know how much longer I can continue following my passion. We are losing really good teachers because they just can’t afford to stay in this profession.”

The data released today paints a dire picture and confirms a key variable that is contributing to this five-alarm crisis: If our nation is serious about tackling the educator shortage, low morale, and exhaustion, the solution must include improving educator pay at all career stages and for the long term.

The good news, however, is that collective bargaining helps educators get higher wages across the board. NEA data shows that for the 2020-21 school year, starting salaries for teachers rose by an average of 1.6 percent in states with a collective bargaining law. And when it comes to ESPs, workers in states with collective bargaining statutes earn almost $6,000 more a year, on average, than those in states where collective bargaining is prohibited.

Highlights from this year’s reports, include:

Teacher Salaries:

  • For 2020-2021, the average salary for public school teachers was $65,293, an increase of 1.8% over 2019-2020. 
  • Adjusting for inflation, the average teacher salary declined by 3.9% over the past decade.
  • The average teacher salary for 2021‒2022 is projected to increase by 1.7% over 2020‒2021, from $65,293 to $66,397.
  • The average starting teacher salary for 2020-2021 was $41,770, an increase of 1.4% over 2019-2020. 
  • When adjusted for inflation, this represents a 4% decrease from 2019-2020, undoing all the gains made over the previous two years.

ESP Earnings:

  • For 2020-21, K-12 ESPs working full time (at least 30 hours per week) earned an average of $32,837. During the same school year, higher education ESP working full time earned an average of $44,225.
  • 13.7% of K-12 ESPs working full time earned less than $15,000, and 27.8% earned between $15,000 and $24,999. Within higher education, 17.4 percent earn less than $25,000, and 7.5 percent earn less than $15,000.
  • The average salary for ESP has risen from $30,819 in 2011-12 to $35,124 in 2020-21. When adjusted for inflation, the earnings for ESP in 2012 dollars has fallen from $30,819 to $30,279.

Higher Education Salaries:

  • The average salary for full-time faculty on 9/10-month contracts was $91,916 in 2020-2021, a 1.3% increase over 2019-2020. The average salary was slightly higher for faculty at public, four-year institutions ($94,444) and much lower for those at public, two-year institutions ($72,421).
  • Adjusting for inflation, faculty lost $1,239 in purchasing power from the prior year.
    In 2020-21, women earned 90 cents to every dollar earned by men in public institutions and 87 cents in private institutions.
    In 2020-2021, the faculty of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) earned $24,000 less, on average, than their colleagues at other insti