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NEA News

Gains in Teacher Pay May Not be Enough to Ease Shortages

According to new NEA reports, despite record-level salary increases in some states, average teacher pay has failed to keep up with inflation.
teacher pay 2024 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Published: April 30, 2024

Key Takeaways

  1. The national average public school teacher salary rose to $69,544 in 2022-23, a 4.1 percent increase over the previous year, according to the 2024 NEA Rankings and Estimates report.
  2. Adjusted for inflation, however, on average, teachers are making 5.3 percent less than they did 10 years ago.
  3. The "union advantage" is very real. Teachers earn 26 percent more, on average, in states with collective bargaining, according to the 2024 NEA Teacher Salary Benchmark report.

In 2022, Mississippi educators were thrilled when state legislators approved the largest pay increase in the state’s history, providing teachers with an average salary increase of about $5,100—a jump of more than 10 percent. The bill also included a $2,000 increase for teacher assistants.   

The increases, which went into effect in the 2022-23 school year, promised to lift the state out of the basement in national rankings of teacher pay.    

“It was historic and has made a big difference in our teachers’ lives,” said Erica Jones, president of the Mississippi Association of Educators. “I think more educators will stay. We’re finally competitive with some of our neighboring states.”  

Mississippi is just one of many states that, thanks to the tireless activism of educators, have significantly raised teacher pay. These efforts have helped increase the average teacher salary nationwide, according to reports by the National Education Association released this week. 

The new 2024 NEA Rankings and Estimates report finds that the national average public school teacher salary increased to $69,544 in 2022-23, a 4.1 percent increase over the previous year. This represents the largest year-over-year teacher pay increase in more than a decade.  

The largest increases were in New Mexico (17.2 percent), Mississippi (11.4 percent), and Alabama (8.2 percent). 

Meanwhile, the NEA Teacher Salary Benchmark report finds that the national average starting teacher salary increased 3.9 percent to $44,530—the largest increase in the 14 years that NEA has been tracking teacher salary benchmarks.  

Despite this undeniable progress, NEA’s data (in addition to the benchmark and Rankings and Estimates reports, NEA also released two related reports on higher education faculty pay and education support professionals earnings) presents a sobering national picture.  

While teacher salaries are heading in the right direction, the growth has not yet made up for many years of underinvestment in educator pay. When adjusted for inflation, teachers are making 5 percent less than they did 10 years ago and 9 percent less than they did in 2009-2010, when average teacher salaries peaked. Starting teachers are making $4,273 below 2008-2009 levels.  

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As prices have grown faster than paychecks, the benefits of salary increases have been neutralized. To boost standards of living, increases in pay need to consistently exceed the rate of inflation.  

Most educators are still accustomed to at best marginal raises. Making ends meet continues to be a challenge and teachers are often forced to take on extra jobs. Sometimes they move to better-paying districts. Frequently they may decide to exit the profession altogether, their dissatisfaction compounded by a lack of support and poor working conditions.   

“While some elected leaders are doing what is right,” said NEA President Becky Pringle, “too many students remain in schools where decision-makers have driven away quality educators by failing to provide competitive salaries and support, disrespecting the profession, and placing extraordinary pressure on individual educators to do more and more with less and less.” 

Chronically Low Salaries

According to the Rankings and Estimates report, the highest average teacher salaries are found in California ($95,160), New York ($92,696) and Massachusetts ($92,307). The lowest salaries are in West Virginia ($52,870), Florida ($53,098), and South Dakota ($53,153).   

The Salary Benchmark Report, which provides information from over 12,000 local school districts on starting teacher salaries and salaries at other points of the teaching career continuum, reveals that on average, the top of the teacher pay scale is $81,026. But reaching that level usually requires a Ph.D. or 15 to 30 graduate credit hours beyond a master’s degree, and often requires 25 to 30 years of professional teaching experience.

Teacher salaries top out over $100,000 in only 16.6 percent of U.S. school districts. 

In most districts, new teachers will have to climb a tall ladder to get anywhere near the top of the salary schedule. A staggering 77 percent of school districts still pay a starting salary below $50,000 and 28.6 percent start out teachers at less than $40,000. 

Education support professionals (ESPs)—school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, paraeducators, custodial workers, clerical staff and others—are facing even greater financial pressures. Almost 38 percent of all full-time K-12 support professionals earn less than $25,000 annually. Again, skyrocketing cost of living has nullified any gains in their wages.  

According to the NEA ESP earnings report, average earnings for support staff rose from $31,223 in 2013‐14 to $35,995 in 2022‐23. However, when adjusted for inflation, the average earnings for ESP fell from $31,223 to $28,149 in constant 2014 dollars.  

Educator Pay in Your State