Shaping the minds of the country’s youth is a noble and worthy calling, but sadly not all teacher salaries are created equal.
WalletHub just released its report on 2018’s Best & Worst States for Teachers, highlighting the top 10 destinations for starting wages, teacher safety, and teacher-to-pupil ratios — as well as the 10 worst. And the contrast is stark.
“Education jobs are among the lowest-paying occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree, and teacher salaries consistently fail to keep up with inflation,” noted a press release from WalletHub. “Meanwhile, the Every Student Succeeds Act demands growth in student performance.”
As a result, many teachers, particularly those new to the field, transfer to other schools or abandon the profession altogether “as the result of feeling overwhelmed, ineffective, and unsupported,” according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), a nonprofit focused on improving the education community.
But while the data presented by WalletHub is intended to be a resource for those seeking employment, it also illustrates the need for greater education funding on a national scale to equalize opportunities for all teachers and students.
So where are teachers seemingly most valued? According to the study, Wyoming has the highest annual average starting salary for teachers (adjusted for cost of living), at $47,288, a figure roughly 1.9 times higher than in Hawaii, the state with the lowest at $24,409.
Meanwhile, Michigan has the highest average annual salary for public-school teachers at $69,439. Hawaii ranks lowest again in this category at $30,086.
While Hawaii remains a popular — and pricy — vacation destination for tourists, the WalletHub figures highlight the economic challenges faced by the island state, where 1 in 6 Hawaii residents live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau's “supplemental poverty measure.”
"We are the clearest story in the nation of how the official poverty rate doesn't provide a full picture," said Nicole Woo, senior policy analyst at the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, in an interview with Hawaii News Now. “The supplemental measure is a reflection of the costs in Hawaii."
Teaching in low-income communities can also present challenges in terms of student engagement.
“Poor families are less likely to be able to afford proper nutrition and sometimes simply don’t have enough food at home. With little financial education and low-earnings, poor families might have to send their kids to school without breakfast or lunch,” noted an earlier report in MoneyWise, which cited a 2008 study that found “not eating enough can reduce the brain's capacity to learn, and poor students quickly end up falling behind their classmates.”
Another consideration in how well educators are able to perform their jobs depends upon state spending.
The District of Columbia has the highest public-school spending per student, dedicating $25,323 to each young mind. That’s a whopping 3.8 times higher than in Indiana, which allocates just $6,673 per student, noted the study.
Yet another hurdle in retaining educators is found in the pupil-teacher ratio.
Vermont has the lowest pupil-teacher ratio at 10.54, according to the WalletHub study, approximately 2.2 times lower than in California, which averages roughly 23.63 students per teacher.
Here are the top 10 and worst 10 rankings:
Best States for Teachers
1. New York
5. North Dakota
8. New Jersey
Worst States for Teachers
42. West Virginia
43. District of Columbia
45. South Carolina
49. North Carolina
For the complete state ranking, visit WalletHub.com/edu