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US: North Carolina, Dakota and Mississippi teachers lowest paid, but is it fair to compare?

There are many factors affecting teacher's pay in different states. Do you think comparing teacher salary by state is a useful measure?
EdChron Desk on August 15, 2014 - 10:31 am in Lifestyle, Living, MAIN, Opinions, U.S., World


WORLD / U.S. – North Carolina school districts paid the 46th-lowest salaries in the country as of the 2012-2013 school year, according to the National Education Association report, and teacher salaries have been frozen since 2008. Many of the southeast states’ annual teacher salary falls below $50,000. South Dakota’s average teacher pay is just over $40,000.

The report, Rankings of the States 2013 and Estimates of School Statistics 2014, contains data based on information from state departments of education and other, largely governmental, sources. It states “based on trends, the NEA estimated that the average classroom teacher salary for 2013–14 would increase by 1.0 percent over 2012–13, from $56,103 to $56,689. The national average salary, although useful as a benchmark statistic, hides vast differences among states, with statewide averages likewise clouding significant local variations.”

Recent pay raise announcement

Earlier this August, it was announced teachers in the state will receive a pay raise.. The average pay increase will be 7 percent, but the entire state salary schedule and differentiated pay schedules are confusing and disappointing to some. The bit of good news is that no teacher will receive less pay than he or she did in the previous school year, according to Lynn Bonner and Jane Stancill on

One of the less-than-exciting aspects of the deal involves “longevity pay,” a lump sum payment teachers used to receive at the end of the school year. Veteran teachers who received this stipend will have it included in their base salaries over the course of the year if they have been teaching 10 or more years, according to Mark Binker of If the longevity pay is not included in the new salary schedule, the average raise is just 5.5 percent. Teachers who work in certain schools or teach specific subjects will receive more money. The previous 37-step pay schedule is now just six steps, and teachers get pay raises only every five years instead of every year.

Teachers who have taught for 30 years will receive less than a one percent raise, while teachers who are moving into their fifth and sixth years of teaching will receive more than 18 percent. One reason for the discrepancy is that there is a high rate of turnover for new teachers.

Performance bonus

Some ways to earn extra money as a teacher under the new program is to do well on evaluations, perform extra duties, teach in a school that is difficult to staff, or to teach a subject that offers a small pool of potential candidates.

The raises may not last, though. Part of the law that changes teacher pay also terminates the promise of extra funding from the state for education when school districts believe they will have an increase in the number of students. This was included because some projected increases were too large. Some Democrats and district superintendents think that this will cause more budget problems that may change how many people they hire, according to Education Week.

Factors affecting pay in different states

There are many factors affecting teacher’s pay in different states. These include enrollment, class size, school revenue and expenditure. Government expenditure, cost of living and comparative salaries of other professionals in various industries set the range of salary. The biggest influence to a starting salary is individual qualification, experience and job description.

This does not mean a teacher’s job is easier in a school with smaller student enrollment. One factor alone does not justify a lower average teacher salary. While there is no accurate measure between states to arrive at a true average salary against the nation-level “market rate” salary, it would be reasonable to compare salaries of different industries within the state or city itself, to know if teachers are underpaid in the particular state.

Do you think comparing teacher salary by state is a useful measure?


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