Teachers are the driving force behind our educational system. They prepare our children for the workforce, for higher education, and for life in general. The profession is widely considered one of the most important and valuable services that contribute to the betterment of society.
According to the NEA’s report, all of the lowest-paying states in terms of teacher salaries allot far less than the national average more than $10,000 less each year, in fact. The differences between the bottom 10 states in terms of salary don’t have quite the spread that the top 10 do: The salary differences fall within $6,000, with a percentage difference of about 14%.
Many of these states are marked with more rural communities and likely a lower cost of living, but not all of the payment gaps are explained by those factors.
When the EPI looked at the teacher pay gaps and salary ratios, half of the states with the lowest teacher salaries are also at the bottom of the list in terms of earnings compared to other college graduates living in those states. In other words, teachers simply don’t command as high of a salary in these states.
States That Pay Teachers the Lowest Salaries
The lowest-paying states for teacher salaries fluctuated more in the past three school years compared to the top 10, but Missouri has more or less stayed around the 10-worst spot in terms of teacher pay. Teachers in the state have seen an average raise of 2.35%, however, which is one of the highest in the group — and well above the bottom 10 average of 1.31%. Unfortunately, Missouri teachers only earn an average of 67.8% of the salaries of other college graduates in the state, the seventh-worst ratio in the nation.
Average teacher salary: $47,849
9. New Mexico
Teachers in New Mexico earn just 66.2% of the salaries of other college graduates, the fourth-worst ratio in the nation. Teachers in the state have seen an average raise of 3.14% over the past three school years, more than many in the bottom tier, but the starting point is so low it’s difficult to catch up.
Average teacher salary: $47,163
In the 2013-14 school year, Louisiana ranked No. 34 in terms of average teacher salary, with teachers earning around $49,067. However, the salary has actually fallen since that time by 4.76% — the only state to experience a wage decrease in the top or bottom 10 states. As a result, teachers in the state now earn the eighth-worst salary of the nation’s educators. It’s unclear if there is a correlation or not, but WalletHub also ranks Louisiana schools as the worst in the nation.
Average teacher salary: $46,733
Teachers in Utah have only seen an average raise of 0.76% over the past three school years, and teachers make only 70.3% of the salary of other degree-holders. That’s the ninth-worst ratio in the nation. WalletHub also points out that teachers in Utah have the second-highest pupil-to-teacher ratio in the country, behind only California. Not only are teachers being paid less, but they’re being asked to educate a larger number of students each year.
Average teacher salary: $46,042
6. West Virginia
Overall, West Virginia scored as the second-worst state for teachers in WalletHub’s report, only above Hawaii. The state’s relatively low salary surely was a factor in that, along with a generally small raise of 1.98% over three school years.
Average teacher salary: $45,977
Teachers in Arizona have only gotten an average 0.31% raise over the past three school years, the lowest increase among the lowest-paying states. The EPI report shows that Arizona teachers earn just 62.8% of the salary that other college degree-holders do in the state — the lowest ratio nationwide. The state scored as the third-worst for teachers according to WalletHub, at least in part because the state spends the second-least amount of money per pupil on education, ahead of only Indiana.
Average teacher salary: $45,477
Idaho teachers earn 77.3% of the salary that other college grads do in the state, which is just above the national average of 77.0%. In that sense, Idaho’s low teacher salaries could be accurately reflective of the state’s low cost of living. Though $45,400 isn’t a huge salary, it’s also had a 2.12% increase over the past three school years higher than the average increase for the bottom 10 salaries.
Average teacher salary: $45,409
At a three-year raise of 0.83%, wage increases have been almost nonexistent for educators in Oklahoma. Teachers make 67% of the salary others do with a college degree, the sixth-worst ratio in the country. The cost of living might not be as high as other states, but there’s clearly a discrepancy between teacher salaries and the earnings of other Oklahoma residents.
Average teacher salary: $44,921
Teachers earn the second-lowest average salary in Mississippi, where three school years have yielded only an average raise of 1.32%. Mississippi has consistently been in this spot for three years, with income likely at least part of the reason it ranked at a dismal No. 47 on WalletHub’s school rankings.
Average teacher salary: $42,744
1. South Dakota
South Dakota ranked slightly better than Mississippi in WalletHub’s analysis at No. 46. Still, the state has consistently paid teachers the lowest salary nationwide. A low cost of living adjustment doesn’t hold up under scrutiny as an excuse, either: WalletHub reports that teachers in South Dakota still have the second-lowest salary in the nation, only better than extremely expensive Hawaii. That’s despite a 5% salary increase over the past three school years, higher than any state on either list. Salaries are rising, but not enough to budge them from the bottom spot.
The difference is shocking when you compare the salary of teachers in South Dakota to those in New York. There’s more than a $35,000 difference in annual pay, meaning teachers in South Dakota make 85.5% less than their professional counterparts in New York.