NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Comparing Teachers' Salaries

March 11, 1997

The National Education Association claims that teachers' salaries are "barely keeping up with inflation." In its recent annual report published in 1997, the NEA compared teachers' pay in various ways to "comparable professionals" -- looking at per-capita income, population, class size, average per-pupil expenditures and so on.

Some readers of the report, however, noted that something was missing: an adjustment for the fact that teachers' work fewer days per year than other professionals.

  • Having the summer off, the average public school teacher works only 185 days per year, earning $37,685.
  • An average "comparable professional" might earn $42,685 and work 235 days per year -- getting only 52 weekends, three weeks of vacation and 11 holidays off.
  • Thus, if teachers were to work 235 days per year, their annual pay would be $47,870 -- $5,185 more than the comparable professional.

Teachers' salaries vary widely throughout the country: from a high of $50,254, on average, in Connecticut to $26,346 in South Dakota.

  • Were a Connecticut teacher to work 235 days a year, the adjusted salary would be $63,836 a year.
  • The adjusted salary for the South Dakota teacher would be $33,467.
  • After adjusting for the fewer days worked, the average $37,685-a-year U. S. public school teacher would be making $47,870.

The low pay that the NEA deplores is actually greater per day of work than that of most U. S. workers.

Source: Mike Antonucci (Western Journalism Center), "How Much Do Teachers Really Make?" Wall Street Journal, March 11, 1997.


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