Source: Economic Policy Institute
Following West Virginia’s lead, teachers in Kentucky and Oklahoma are walking out and demanding change, while teachers in Arizona are considering doing the same. Some teachers say students who participated in the March for Our Lives actions across the country inspired them to speak up.
But the tipping point goes deeper than that. Teachers have finally had enough. Why? Because teachers across the country have watched their states make dramatic cuts to investments in schools, students, and teachers—often while those same states implement tax breaks for individuals and corporations.
Teachers are concerned with a range of issues, from books and supplies to safe buildings. And they are burdened by growing pay inequities. Over the last two decades, teachers are contributing more and more toward health care and retirement costs as their pay falls further behind. Teacher pay (accounting for inflation) actually fell by $30 per week from 1996 to 2015, while pay for other college graduates increased by $124. In short, the teacher pay gap—the difference between what teachers earn in weekly wages compared with similarly educated and experienced workers—has widened significantly. Even when accounting for benefits, the teacher compensation gap increased by 9 percentage points, to 11.1 percent over that same time frame.
Teacher pay gaps vary considerably across the United States as indicated in the figure.1 The figure below shows within-state ratios of public school teachers to other college graduates. The ratio for the overall United States is 0.77, meaning that, on average, teachers earn just 77 percent of what other college graduates earn in weekly wages. Arizona (0.63) has the lowest ratio (the largest pay gap), while Wyoming (0.99) has the highest ratio (the smallest pay gap).
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