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Inflation Outpaces Teacher Salary Growth in More Than 40 States, Says Study


Across the nation, teachers are losing spending power for themselves and their families as inflation outpaced increases in teacher salaries last year. 

According to the National Education Association’s (NEA) update to the annual report titled, “Rankings and Estimates: Rankings of the States 2004 and Estimates of School Statistics 2005,” inflation increased 3.1 percent over the past year, while teacher salaries increased by only 2.3 percent. Some of the key findings of the report include the following:

  • Teacher salaries, which rose 2.3 percent to $47,808 since last year, failed to keep pace with the nation’s 3.1 percent increase in inflation.
  • Average teacher salaries actually declined in three states — Maine, West Virginia and Alabama.
  • Education revenue increased 4.1 percent since last year.
  • Education expenditures rose 4.7 percent over the past year.

NEA President Reginald Weaver expressed concern over the rate of inflation rising faster than increases in teachers’ salaries, as school districts across the country struggle to attract and retain teachers in the profession.

“Without a firm commitment to raising teacher salaries, our schools will continue to have difficulty recruiting and retaining diversified teaching staffs that are prepared to meet the educational needs of our public school children,” said Weaver. 

“It’s unsettling that when the rate of inflation is considered, on average, our teachers are actually earning less this year than they did the previous year. We must do a better job of providing professional salaries to the teachers who are working directly with our children.”

In 41 states and the District of Columbia, teachers saw their spending power shrink as a result of rising inflationary costs, and in three of these states — Maine, West Virginia, and Alabama — average teacher salaries dropped below the previous year’s level.

Teacher salaries, however, increased at a rate higher than inflation in nine states, giving teachers more money to cover their living expenses, support their families, pay for continuing education, and save for unexpected emergencies. 

Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, Virginia, Tennessee, New Mexico, Montana, and Oklahoma were among the states where increases in teacher salaries rose faster than the rate of inflation.

The commitment to teaching excellence demonstrated by these states represents the progress needed to sustain economic competitiveness, which is increasingly dependent upon well educated workforces, commercial and manufacturing innovation, and entrepreneurial productivity. 

Several states with both high average teacher salaries and large student enrollments carried the nation’s $47,808 average teacher salary, including California, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. These states reported average teacher salaries higher than $52,000 and student enrollments nearing one million or more.  Fifteen states’ average teacher salaries were lower than $39,999. Connecticut reported the highest 2004-05 average teacher salary, $58,688.

“Public education in America must raise teacher salaries at a rate faster than inflation in order to attract and retain the quality teaching force necessary to remain competitive in the global marketplace, as well as to maintain a high functioning society,” said Weaver. 

To support teachers in their careers and to encourage more professionals to enter the field of education, NEA is advocating for a minimum beginning salary of $40,000 for all teachers nationwide. Beginning salaries for other professional careers, such as accounting, nursing and business management, regularly outrank the teaching profession, leaving many teachers struggling with multiple jobs in order to meet their personal financial obligations.     

In addition to data on teacher salaries, school expenditures, and school revenue, the study also includes information on student enrollments, number of teachers in public schools, and student-teacher ratios (not class size).

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