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Low Teacher Salaries 101

How we got here, why it matters, and how school systems and states can compensate teachers fairly and strategically

The 2018 teacher walkouts in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Colorado shone a light on the long-simmering issue of teacher pay and education spending. 

Following decades of steady growth in per-pupil spending, the recession of 2008 marked a watershed event: in more than 30 U.S. states, inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending decreased. This may seem like a momentary blip, yet a deeper analysis reveals why some states should be concerned about the current level of K-12 per-pupil spending - and its effect on teacher salaries, the teacher labor market, and student success. 

To promote excellence and equity for all students, districts and states need to consider both how much they invest in education alongside how well those resources are used. 


This paper takes a state-by-state look at education spending levels, teacher salaries, and how salary levels correlate with turnover, staffing shortages, and other issues. We then offer recommendations for how to compensate and support teachers strategically. 

Infographic describing changes in teacher salaries. Download whitepaper pdf for details
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