Ulrich Boser and Chelsea Straus: “Low teacher pay is not news. Over the years, all sorts of observers have argued that skimpy teacher salaries keep highly qualified individuals out of the profession. One recent study found that a major difference between the education system in the United States and those in other nations with high-performing students is that the United States offers much lower pay to educators. But for the most part, the conversation around teacher pay has examined entry-level teachers. The goal of this issue brief was to learn more about the salaries of mid- and late-career teachers and see if wages were high enough to attract and keep the nation’s most talented individuals. This research relied on a variety of databases, the results of which are deeply troubling. Our findings include:
- Mid- and late-career teacher base salaries are painfully low in many states. In Colorado, teachers with a graduate degree and 10 years of experience make less than a trucker in the state. In Oklahoma, teachers with 15 years of experience and a master’s degree make less than sheet metal workers. And teachers in Georgia with 10 years of experience and a graduate degree make less than a flight attendant in the state.
- Teachers with 10 years of experience who are family breadwinners often qualify for a number of federally funded benefit programs designed for families needing financial support. We found that mid-career teachers who head families of four or more in multiple states such as Arizona and North Dakota qualify for several benefit programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the School Breakfast and Lunch Program. What’s more, teachers have fewer opportunities to grow their salaries compared to other professions.
- To supplement their minimal salaries, large percentages of teachers work second jobs. We found that in 11 states, more than 20 percent of teachers rely on the financial support of a second job, and in some states such Maine, that number is as high as 25 percent. In these 11 states, the average base salary for a teacher with 10 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree is merely $39,673—less than a carpenter’s national average salary. (Note that teachers typically have summers off, and the data on teachers who work second jobs do not include any income that a teacher may have earned over the summer.)”