Surprising Results in National Teacher Pay Study From NCPA & MacIver Institute
September 03, 2014
How much teachers are paid really depends on the salaries’ worth after they are adjusted for cost of living, and many of those paid the most wind up at the bottom of the adjusted pay scale, according to a new study from the National Center for Policy Analysis and the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy.
The study compares actual elementary teacher pay values among 60 metropolitan areas across the country. Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Grand Rapids, Michigan and Columbus, Ohio are at the top. Honolulu, New York City and San Francisco rank the lowest in salary when adjusted for cost of living.
“For those considering moving to another area for higher teacher pay, the grass is not always greener,” said NCPA Senior Fellow Pamela Villarreal. “An increase in salary could be eaten up by higher overall living costs.”
With a median salary of $74,540, Milwaukee’s elementary teachers receive the highest salaries of the major metropolitan areas examined. When adjusted for cost of living, the median salary drops slightly to $73,078, but still ranks at the top. But other high median salaries are not that impressive when adjusted for the area cost of living. For instance:
New York City (Manhattan borough), ranks third highest with a median annual salary of $73,000, but falls to $33,152 when adjusted for the cost of living, placing it near the bottom of the pay scale nationwide.
San Francisco’s median salary of $66,350 sounds attractive until the area’s high cost of living is factored in, reducing it to $41,058.
In Honolulu, the median salary of $54,640 is slightly above the national median, but falls to the very bottom of the 60-city sample when adjusted for the cost of living to $32,312.
Teachers in some cities enjoy much better circumstances. Indeed, in nine metropolitan areas the cost of living adjustment takes teacher’s salaries from at or below the national median of $53,950 to well above it.
The median salary in Salt Lake City, Utah, is $52,890, but increases to $55,968 when adjusted for the cost of living.
The median salary in St. Louis, Missouri, is $53,580, but climbs to $56,819 when adjusted for the cost of living.
The median salary in Indianapolis, Indiana — $51,790 — increases to $56,293 when adjusted for the cost of living — a difference of $4,500
The study also examines National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores in 19 metro areas to determine if students performed at a higher level when teachers were paid more.
“As with any government program, it is important for taxpayers to know the value they receive for every tax dollar spent. Wisconsin taxpayers pay elementary teachers in Milwaukee one of the highest salaries in the country, but academic performance is one of the lowest,” said MacIver Institute President Brett Healy. “We face many challenges in Milwaukee. This report clearly demonstrates we cannot blame low teacher pay for poor academic results. Everyone involved – our children, parents, teachers and administrators – must do better."
The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization, established in 1983. We bring together the best and brightest minds to tackle the country's most difficult public policy problems — in health care, taxes, retirement, education, energy and the environment. Visit our website today for more information.
The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy is a Wisconsin-based think tank that promotes free markets, individual freedom, personal responsibility and limited government. Visit our website today for more information.