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Teacher Pay Continues to Lag Non-Teacher Pay

Illustration of money in an envelope

On average, teachers made 23.5 cents on the dollar less than what similar, college-educated counterparts earned in 2021.

According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, the average gap between teachers and non-teacher professionals’ weekly wages has increased approximately $416 when adjusted for inflation from 1996 to 2021. A significant widening of the gap has occurred since 2010 as teacher wages remained relatively flat, while wages of other college graduates escalated.

Researchers examined teacher weekly wage penalties by state and found varying discrepancies. Findings include:

  • Colorado had the largest wage gap at -35.9 percent.
  • Texas was close to the median wage gap at -21.5 percent.
  • Rhode Island had the smallest wage gap at -3.45 percent.
  • All states had wage gaps between the two groups.

This “teacher pay penalty” discourages college students from pursuing teaching careers and makes it challenging for school districts to recruit and retain teaches.

One positive finding from the analysis was teachers gain more compensation in benefits, such as retirement plans and health benefits, than non-teacher professionals. This helped partially offset the wage gap but didn’t eliminate it.

Low teacher salaries are a major factor of the teacher shortage, although not the only reason (e.g., pandemic challenges, stress, and lack of respect). School districts are ramping up recruitment and retention efforts to compete with non-teaching careers by offering signing bonuses, retention stipends, higher salaries, more robust benefits, and flexible work schedules.

This report confirms the need to make teacher pay more competitive with other professional careers to attract and retain teachers and alleviate the teacher shortage crisis. 

For more information on the teacher vs. non-teacher wage gap, check out the full analysis from Economic Policy Institute.

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Cheryl Hoover
Cheryl Hoover

Cheryl Hoover joined HR Services in 2018. She assists with staffing and HR reviews, training, and other HR projects. During Hoover’s public school career, she served as an executive director of curriculum and principal leadership, executive director of human resources, principal, assistant principal, teacher, and coach.

Hoover earned her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin and obtained her master’s degree from Texas State University. She is a certified PHR.

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