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Study: Inflation Outpaces Teacher Salary

Study: Inflation Outpaces Teacher Salary
Growth in More Than 40 States

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 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. Meanwhile, educational revenue increased 4.1 percent in the last year. But that figure still fell below the 4.7 percent rise in educational expenditures during the same period.

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

“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,” says 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,” he adds. “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. In three of the 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 —  Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, Virginia, Tennessee, New Mexico, Montana and Oklahoma. The additional income gives teachers in those states more money to cover their living expenses, support their families, pay for continuing education and save for unexpected emergencies.

Several states with both high average teacher salaries and large student enrollments boosted the nation’s average annual teacher salary to $47,808. California, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania all 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 2004-2005 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,” says 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.

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