Your state’s teachers are underpaid. Find out by how much.

Your state’s teachers are underpaid. Find out by how much.

It’s not just West Virginia: Teacher salaries have been stagnant or falling for years.

West Virginia teachers recently went on strike for nine days after being told they would receive just a 1 percent pay raise and would be required to pay more for health insurance. Eventually, the governor gave in to the teachers’ demands and gave them a 5 percent raise as well as a hold on increasing health insurance premiums.

There’s the old truism that public school teachers aren’t paid enough, but this strike in West Virginia highlights a trend that we’re seeing nationwide: Public school teachers aren’t getting raises that keep up with inflation — and over time, this essentially amounts to massive pay cuts. It’s a pernicious trend because raw salaries tend to increase by small amounts, so it can be hard to detect.

But like in West Virginia, teachers in Oklahoma and Arizona have taken notice and may be planning strikes of their own, my colleague Alexia Fernández Campbell reports.

And it’s not just a problem in those states. Chances are it’s happening in your state too. So let’s take a look.

Let’s find out how your state is doing

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How do states pay for education?

A unique aspect of the American education system is that a huge portion of funding comes from local property taxes.

A smaller chunk of money — less than 10 percent — comes from the federal government, and this share has shrunk in the past few years.

The rest of the money is appropriated from the state, and it hasn’t changed drastically in the past 10 years:


The feds are accounting for about the same amount as they were before the recession, but states are now contributing a little less. In 2007, states were responsible for about 47.6 percent of receipts. That dipped to 44.1 percent in 2010 and now has bumped back up to 46 percent. Meanwhile, local taxes have been increasingly funding public education.

In the table below, you can see how public education in your state was funded in 2017:

But as states deal with budget crises, and as state lawmakers push tax cuts for businesses and corporations, public school teachers haven’t gotten the raises that would help them keep up with inflation. In fact, most states haven’t restored education funding to pre-recession levels.

As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes:

Most states cut school funding after the recession hit, and it took years for states to restore their funding to pre-recession levels. In 2015, the latest year for which comprehensive spending data are available from the U.S. Census Bureau, 29 states were still providing less total school funding per student than they were in 2008.

All of this means that teachers have a genuine gripe: They really have been getting paid less. That’s not just in the states where teachers are considering a strike; it’s probably true in your state too.


Are you a teacher who has seen your pay stagnate or go down over the years? Email me at [email protected].

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