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Teachers at the Bottom of the Class for Professional Pay

Teachers at the Bottom of the Class for Professional Pay

Share School Issues CenterReleased last week by the American Federation of Teachers, the survey shows that although salary increases were slightly higher than the national inflation rate, the nation's teachers still earn less than many white-collar professionals do. Included: Look up the average salary for teachers in your state!

Fifty years ago, when the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) first surveyed teachers nationwide, the average annual teacher's salary was less than $3,000. Compare that to the 1998-1999 average salary of $40,574, and you might think teachers have nothing to worry about!

Not so, according to AFT president Sandra Feldman, who released the AFT 1999 Salary Survey last week at the organization's 76th annual convention in Philadelphia. The report included a mixed bag of good and bad news.

For first time in several years, teacher pay increases outpaced inflation. "That's good news because salary increases had been right at or about the inflation rate for many years," said F. Howard Nelson, senior associate director of research for the AFT. Teacher salaries climbed 3.6 percent for new teachers and 3.3 percent for veteran teachers. However, Nelson noted, the gain was minimal because roughly 2.6 percent was lost to inflation.

Show and Tell

State-by-State Ranking of Teacher Salaries

Where does your state stand in the national rankings of average teacher salaries? Last week, the American Federation of Teachers released its 1999 salary survey. Click here to see a state-by-state list of average salaries. To see the AFT's entire report, click here.
The bad news is that the average salary is slipping behind salaries for many professional occupations again for the third consecutive year. The disparity is particularly evident for professional newcomers. "The college job market has been hot, hot, hot!" Nelson told Education World. "The market for new college graduates is growing very fast, and average salaries for non-teachers are a lot more."

The average starting salary for teachers is $26,639, about 30 percent less than the $37,194 average starting pay for all other college graduates in 1999.

College graduates entering engineering, computer science, and math or statistics professions not only earn more than beginning teachers but also make more than veteran teachers, the report found.


Low salaries contribute to the teacher shortage, Feldman told delegates at the AFT convention. "Low salaries are preventing quality people from both entering and staying in the profession," she said. "Unless the basic salary level for teachers is a professional one, we are simply not going to attract 2 million people who are not only willing to become teachers but also able to meet high standards -- and who, because they are financially able to stay in the profession, will keep on reaching even higher standards of teaching skill," she said.

"Salaries for all educators are causing a problem," said Michael Carr, spokesman for the National Association for Secondary School Principals. Teacher shortages indirectly affect the ability of school boards to hire principals and superintendents because fewer qualified teachers are available to move into leadership positions. "There is a trickle-up effect," Carr said.

"Until we provide the income that professional educators deserve, we'll have a difficult time attracting the best and the brightest to this profession," Carr told Education World. "How can we attract the best and the brightest to education if they aren't paid the same as people in other fields?"

Diane Weaver Dunne
Education World®
Copyright © 2000 Education World

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