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Here's how far teacher salaries have fallen behind

Twenty-five years ago, teaching public school was a pretty attractive gig.Teachers got to help mold young mind...

Posted: Apr 27, 2018 4:12 PM
Updated: Apr 27, 2018 4:12 PM

Twenty-five years ago, teaching public school was a pretty attractive gig.

Teachers got to help mold young minds. They mostly had summers off. And they were paid roughly as much as their counterparts in similar professions.

Today, not so much. Teachers in the US earn significantly less than workers in comparable jobs, especially in states such as Arizona, Colorado and Kentucky where educators have been protesting and walking out of school.

And the pay gap is widening.

"Are we really getting our best and our brightest to be teachers anymore in this scenario?" says Sylvia Allegretto, an economist at the Economist Policy Institute who analyzes teacher pay gaps.

Here are two charts that illustrate the problem.

Today's pay gap

The pay disparity is especially large for college graduates. As you can see above, in some states teachers with bachelor's degrees earn over one-third less than the state's college-educated workforce in other fields.

The gap also is widest in some states where teachers are striking. In Arizona, it's 37%. In Colorado, 35%. Those are the two largest gaps of all states, according to an analysis of publicly available data by the Economic Policy Institute.

...and how it got this bad

In 1994, public school teachers (1st-12th grade) were making about 1.8% less than similar professionals. By 2015 they were making 17% less. Pay for other professionals with similar characteristics is outpacing teachers more by the year.

This gap persists even when accounting for benefits. Teachers still make 11.% less than similar professionals when factoring in job benefits.

As states slashed budgets during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, teachers took a hit. Since then, many states -- particularly those where strikes are occurring -- have cut taxes, leaving educators even further behind.

This salary gap also is wider among men than women. In 2015, the most recent year for which stats are available, female teachers earned 13.9 % less than women in similar professions. For men, the gap was 22.1%.

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