Teacher Tales of Salary, Data / Cold Hard Facts/ Are Teachers Over or Under Paid? Read and Have Your Say!!

You probably know where I am going with this blog on teacher pay.Liz

In the private sector, people with SAT and GRE scores comparable to those of education majorsearn less than teachers do. Does that mean teachers are overpaid? Or that public schools should pay more to attract top applicants who tend to go into higher-paying professions?


Outside groups enriched my teaching and my resources

Prodessional development is key!


If you saw this New York TImes piece, you probably had to reflect a bit on how teachers get compensation.

WASHINGTON — During her first six years of teaching in this city’s struggling schools, Tiffany Johnson got a series of small raises that brought her annual salary to $63,000, from about $50,000. This year, her seventh, Ms. Johnson earns $87,000.

I taught for 30 years and my compensation was so small, I won’t post it. But I will say that my rewards were from outside the system and I am highly qualifed. The first thing I learned in working the country, was NOT to talk about teacher salaries. No matter how great an idea I was pushing, I learned that this is hot button stuff.

First the article then some information.

In Washington, Large Rewards in Teacher Pay


In a new system to retain young talent, about 476 teachers received sizable bonuses this year, with 235 of them getting unusually large pay raises. Interesting article.


You will note that this blogger wrote this piece back in the fall to give a perspective on teaching and salaries.

By Andrew Otis, The Writer’s Network


Pay for teachers in the United States varies widely. The median or mean teacher salary in the U.S. varies per whichever source you decide to use. The two most reputable sources for teacher salary estimates are the US Census and the American Federation of Teachers, a US teachers union that represents most of the educators in America.

Charter vs. Public

 Charter school teachers generally have lower starting salaries than do public school teachers on average. According to the American Federation of Teachers, the average starting salary of charter school teachers in 2006 and 2007 was lower than public school teachers. Starting charter school teachers earned an average of $34,817 for their beginning salaries. In comparison, average starting salaries for public school teachers was $41,106 during this same period.

Census.gov Estimates

According to Census.gov, the US census website, the average pay for classroom teachers in 2009 was $52,900. The PDF for this data was created in 2011.

Teacher pay has increased dramatically over time. Census.gov has evaluated teacher pay and found that it has increased on average from $23,587 in 1985, $37,264 in 1995, $45,884 in 2005 and $52,900 in 2009. So, not accounting for inflation, classroom teacher pay has almost doubled in 25 years. Meanwhile, salaries for principals and administrators have almost tripled in some cases. Superintendents who made on average $56,954 in 1985 now make $155,634 on average as of 2009.

American Federation of Teachers

The American Federation of Teachers, a teachers union that represents many teachers throughout the US, posted its own teacher salary estimates in 2007. The American Federation of Teachers estimates that after “15 years of relative stagnation” in teacher pay, teacher salaries have been on the rise during the first half of the last decade. The mean teacher salary, according to the American Federation of Teachers during 2006 to 2007 was $51,009. Salaries have generally remained frozen during the current financial recession.

High Paying State and Low Paying States

Teacher pay, as mentioned earlier, varies a lot depending on which state you teach in. California ranks number 1 in teacher pay with an average pay of $63,640. South Dakota ranks number 50 in average teacher pay with an abysmal $35,378.

High School vs Middle School vs. Elementary School Pay

The data on average teacher salary comparisons between high school teachers, middle school teachers and elementary school teachers is spotty at best. One website, payscale.com, estimates that high school teachers have the highest salaries of the three on average, followed by middle school teachers and finally elementary school teachers. According to them, high school teachers are paid an average $43,386, middle school teachers $41,762 and elementary school teachers $40,060. These data are significantly lower than those reported by the American Federation of Teachers or the US census, so take the results with a grain of salt. The most important pattern to understand here is that high school teachers have the highest salaries on average, followed by middle school teachers and finally elementary school teachers. However, the pay differences are not terribly significant on the whole.

Another report on teacher salary with recognition of variables around pay by region. here

The profession is notorious for losing thousands of its brightest young teachers within a few years, which many experts attribute to low starting salaries and a traditional step-raise structure that rewards years of service and academic degrees rather than success in the classroom. They don’t talk about the politics of place, the ideational scaffolding within a system, and the fact that teachers who move to another state may find that they are not eligible to teach in another state. So they go.

Another discussion will take you to the point where you are told that anyone can teach and that retirees from other walks of life are better teachers.

Tom Carroll at the Wireless Workshop talked about how there are many artisanal teachers , when what we need is a process to create, support and inform teachers to be the best they can be. Here is some of his groups work.
Who Will Teach? Experience Matters (January 2010): Full Report
Between 2004 and 2008, 300,000 veteran teachers left the workforce for retirement. Baby Boom teachers who made lifelong commitments to education are retiring, and in many cases are taking their hard-earned wisdom with them. Why can’t we just recruit our way out of this challenge? Because the rate at which new teachers leave has been increasing steadily over the last 15 years.
For other “Who Will Teach?” Resources click here.

The Next Generation of Learning Teams (October 2009):
Phi Delta Kappan cover story by Tom Carroll.

Learning Teams: Creating What’s Next (April 2009): Full Report
Snapshot of State-by-State Demographics of the Teaching Workforce: Report Appendix
According to new NCTAF research, and a national survey of teachers and principals, the nation stands to lose half of its teachers to retirement over the next decade. The report finds that over 50 percent of the nation’s principals and teachers are Baby Boomers. To avoid a potential school staffing crisis, NCTAF recommends the concept of Cross-Generational Learning Teams, in which experienced veterans could stay in teaching longer by working with new teachers, providing mentoring, coaching and instructional assistance that will help to improve student performance and reduce attrition rates for new teachers.

Interesting Infographic on what the public thinks.

And what do you think?

One thought on “Teacher Tales of Salary, Data / Cold Hard Facts/ Are Teachers Over or Under Paid? Read and Have Your Say!!

  1. Sent to me by Email. Don Mitchell

    Hi Bonnie!

    You’ve overwhelmed me with thought pieces over the last two weeks and I have read them. I won’t comment on those that cover topics I haven’t thought about a lot but will on a few where I’ve been thinking for a long time about the issues and complexities.

    A few thoughts on the issues surrounding teacher (and Administrator) pay (which I’ve been discussing here in connection with our local budgeting process, which is clearly broken) .

    First off, I don’t believe there is a simple yes/no answer about either:

    I believe teachers and their administrators are both subject to the same “80/20 rule” as every other profession (20% of the people do 80% of the work and vice versa), thus, by definition some will be underpaid and some overpaid. On top of that, i believe in some sort of a “merit pay” system based on teacher or school “performance” but the performance must, somehow, be tied to the product (educated students) produced. As we’ve discussed in the past, there doesn’t appear to be any easy way to do this because (i) student achievement results from factors both internal and external to the classroom experience, and (“subjective” evaluation,whether by peers, students or administrators, introduces bias and other factors.

    On the issue of “young teachers” leaving the profession, I suspect that as many leave in frustration over a system which provides them little support and has too much emphasis on things not related to their desire to help develop young minds. On the issue of “older teachers” retiring, this may not be a totally bad thing as the new technologies, which we’ve played a role in developing, require a different mindset on the part of educators and may help weed out many who enjoyed being “the sage on the stage as opposed to the guide on the side”. For some, it very difficult to deal with the fact that the students may, in fact, have more information that their ‘teacher”….

    Also adding to the complexity is that, in many systems, the career path for many of the best teachers may require that to eave teaching for an administrative position in order to progress financially. There needs to be a way around this dilemma.

    The issue of compensation for “administrators”, superintendents (equally subject to the 80/20 rule) and school systems as a whole is further complicated by the fact that the funding formulas and categories used by the various entities involved in the process have no relationship to the purported “goals” of the system. In VA, schools receive dollars based on a complex formula, the primary ingredient of which is “bodies in seats” which detracts from the ability to use current technology efficiently and actually costs large amounts of money in rural areas. Example, here in Gloucester, they’re offering some “online” courses which may only be utilized by students from within the walls of the school buildings. Since one of our major costs locally is transportation…..

    Let me also comment on the political disconnect between providing an “education” and spending money… Again, I’ll use our local system here to illustrate my point. Local power involves the control of money, jobs and real estate. Last year, in spite of continuing declines in student enrollment over the last decade and an excess of space in school buildings, our local School Board and Superintendent decided to reduce the number of school days to 160 (from 180) which saved ~$1.7 million, rather than closing a school building (which would have save ~$4.2 million). Since the teachers and administrators are under contracts set by the state for a set number of days, they were unaffected financially by the change. The people hurt were the bus drivers , custodians and cafeteria workers (lowest paid on the local totem pole) and those who now needed to find day care for ,their younger kids. The reason was, of course, the School board wished to maintain their control of real estate and keeping their budget as large as possible while rousing the parents to demand more money. The change was made for purely political reasons.

    At “Net 92”, I remember DVH giving a talk (which someone else must have written for him) in which, after commenting on the huge gymnasiums, auditoriums, field houses, dormitories and “magnificent campuses” and their attendant costs, spoke of the fact that “unless the universities remember that their primary function is the preservation and growth of human knowledge they will be left with only empty buildings, the memories of past glories and the legacy function and powers of credentialism”. I suspect the same may be true for our K-12 schools.

    Sorry if I digress but it’s a topic about which I’ve thought much and it frustrates me that the rewards have no relationship to the purported goals of the “institution”.

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