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Teacher Pay and Student Spending: How Does Your State Rank?

Educators are underpaid compared to other professionals. NEA's 2021 review quantifies teacher salary and student spending in your state.
Published: 04/23/2021

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NEA’s annual reports, which comb through data covering everything from the average teacher salary to state spending on students, show that the country was finally headed toward increased support for students when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.  

Now, much of the recovery from the Great Recession could reverse course, while recent progress around chronic funding gaps and the educator pay penalty could be lost. 

NEA’s Rankings and Estimates report, which provides thousands of education statistics and has been produced by the National Education Association for more than 70 years, estimates the national classroom teacher salary was $65,090 for the 2020-21 school year. This national average salary only slightly increased by 0.9 percent over the past decade, when adjusted for inflation. 

NEA also collects data on teacher starting salaries and released those findings alongside its Rankings and Estimates report.

The average starting teacher salary for 2019-2020, across nearly 12,000 public school districts, was $41,163, an increase of 2.5 percent over 2018-2019. When adjusted for inflation, this marks the largest annual increase in starting pay since before the Great Recession. 

Key Findings

Highlights from this year’s report, which include national and state-by-state averages, include: 

Enrollment and Attendance

  • In fall 2019, U.S. public schools enrolled 50,189,401 students, a decrease of 0.1 percent from fall 2018. During the same period, the number of students in average daily attendance (ADA) decreased by 0.5 percent nationwide.
  • Public school enrollment is expected to decrease by an estimated 2.4 percent from 2019-20 (50,189,401) to 2020-21 (48,985,186) and the number of students in average daily attendance is projected to decline by 2.0 percent.

Classroom Teachers

  • U.S. public schools employed 3,214,673 teachers in 2019-20. The number of classroom teachers is not expected to change significantly from 2019-20 to 2020-21.

Teacher Salary

  • The national average public school teacher salary for 2019-20 was $64,133. State average teacher salaries ranged from those in New York ($87,069), California ($84,531), and Massachusetts ($84,290) at the high end to Mississippi ($46,843), South Dakota ($48, 984) and Florida ($49,102) at the low end.  
  • The national average one-year change in public school teacher salaries from 2018-19 to 2019-20 was 2.9 percent.
  • The average classroom teacher salary for 2020-21 is projected to increase by 1.5 percent over 2019-20, from $64,133 to $65,090.

Expenditures Per Student

  • The national average per-student expenditure in 2019-20 based on fall enrollment was $13,597, a gain of 4.0 percent from $13,078 in 2018-19. The following states had the highest per-student expenditures: New York ($25, 907), the District of Columbia ($23,231), and New Jersey ($22,097). Idaho ($7,705), Utah ($8,306), and Mississippi ($9,181) had the lowest per-student expenditures.
  • Expenditures per student in fall enrollment are projected to increase by 4.8 percent to $14,243 in 2020-21, up from $13,597 in 2019-20.

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National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.