Oh teachers, where would we be without you? In a profession centered around molding the youth of today into the leaders of tomorrow, it is often said teachers are not paid enough for all the work they do. With most of my close friends working in the educational field, I often hear that they are overworked and underpaid. Out of curiosity, I decided to see where teachers are making the most money, and how much they are making.

The National Education Association took some time to crunch the numbers and came out with state by state average salaries for public school teachers.

The average annual salary for teachers working in public schools throughout 2009 to 2010 was $55,202. When you look at the top ranking states, the higher salaries make sense considering they are in states that house the biggest cities in the United States.

StateAvg. Public School Salary
New York$71,633
New Jersey$65,130
District of Columbia$64,548

Although Massachusetts is notorious for having some of the nation’s best schools, New York’s spot as #1 is undoubtedly connected to the high cost of living. When comparing housing in major metropolitan areas, New York City is 19% more expensive than Massachusetts and roughly 59% higher than the rest of the country; yet the difference in salaries is only 3.3 percent.

The bottom five are surprising, considering none of those states have the lowest cost of living in the country. Currently, the states at the bottom of the cost of living list are: Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Utah (ordered from lowest to highest).

StateAvg. Public School SalaryStateAvg. Public School Salary
New York$71,633Montana$45,759
New Jersey$65,130Missouri$45,317
District of Columbia$64,548North Dakota$42,946
South Dakota$38,837

Poor M-states, they totally got the shaft. In order to gauge what this low-ranking really means, we wanted to compare cost of living between New York and South Dakota, the highest and lowest states on the list. According to a simple cost of living calculator, teachers’ pay in New York would equate to about $40,200 in South Dakota. Considering the average in S.D. salary is at $38,837, it appears teachers are being swindled out of a couple thousand dollars.

To see where your state ranks check out table C-11 on page 19 of Ranking & Estimates Statistics from the National Education Association.

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  • Matthew_marks_1999

    Lets see here; we have low tax republican states vs high tax democratic states. are the students test scores higher in the high tax states? doubt it. so the unions are the only real beneficiary here. Nuff said.

    • The_Mick

      Matt: look at the state rankings before you sling mud at the unions. The bottom four rated states for education are: Montana, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Your “low tax republican states” tend to have the lowest SAT, etc. scores in spite of the fact that the Dem. states tend to have the large cities and their ghettos.  And by the way, keep attacking those unions: we don’t need the Middle Class they produced, do we?

      • ted_k_hyannis_ma

        new york, like many deep blue states, has been recently nailed for institutionalized test cheating.  On top of private test cheating.  The real question is, are we getting education value for our dollars?  The answer is NO.  I h a t e d  my third grade math teacher.  But I learned my multiplication tables, which is why I was able to become an engineer.  40 years out, the kids LOVE their teachers, who don’t teach rote memorization of multiplication tables, and then they fail at math & science later.  If resurrected my old teacher could still teach math students would use for years but the unions would fight her.  Unions were important, adn could be again, IF they were broken down from the big nationals that have become nothing but water carriers for one party, not to help members, but to help only union leaders & politicians.

        • Derp

          My son dropped a 720 on the math section of the SAT. He is now a sophomore chem engineering major. I don’t know where you live, but where I live they are certainly teaching the kids math. Our teachers are union, and they do a very good job of preparing our kids for college. My oldest just graduated SCL with a 3.96 GPA prelaw. She will be going to law school in the fall.

          • Smartie

            thank God she did not have to depend on affirmative action to get her 3.96

        • Smartie

          affirmative action ?

        • art

          Teachers are FORBIDDEN from teaching multiplication tables because it’s rote memorization. The same thing goes for spelling tests and grammar. That’s the thing… People THINK they know what the story is but they don’t… I know teachers that teach the way they know works IF the principal is out of the building and after they pull the shades down over the door windows. Teachers in NYC are told how to teach, exactly how long each lesson must be, down to the minute whether the students get it or not, even how to arrange the tables and chairs in their rooms. They are told this by principals that never taught or only taught one or two years, BUT, went to Klein’s Academy. Then the teachers get blamed for the outcome. BTW, scores are highest in states that have unions and lowest in states with few unions.

      • Anonymous

        That’s because half the students in those states are home schooled with subjects taught “from a Christian perspective.”

        • Smartie

          More every year in our state are going to home school.

      • Smartie

        affirmative action ?

    • Anonymous

      I just love those simplistic conclusions.  Such thinking!

  • The_Mick

    “Although Massachusetts is notorious for having the nation’s best schools” +++++ MARYLAND has the nation’s best schools, and has been rated #1 for three years in a row in the top-rated Education Week’s annual “Quality Counts” report.  NY is 2nd and Mass. is 3rd. (http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/dc/2011/01/maryland-schools-top-nation).  A three-year study of the Bridge to Excellence Act also listed Maryland as #1 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/07/AR2009010702347.html).

    • ted_k_hyannis_ma

      maryland & baltimore are HUGE news in education circles.  For the institutionalized test cheating scandals.

      yeah maryland!

      • Smartie

        If they can’t cheat and make it there is always ………..affirmative action .

  • Joe

    Swindled in South Dakota? How about over paid in New York! These are government workers paid by a system that wastes so much money on administrators…let schools go private and you will see a much better, cheaper product – just the way the private market does it every single time… 

    • Valbob

       So how much do you pay for your kids to go to grade school?  It must be nice to be able to fork over $1k or $2k a year for each kid, but not everyone is in the top 1%.

      Would you show the link that shows how much money the ‘system’ wastes or do you think it’s wasting money?

      If private is so great, then why don’t we ever see the test results of private schools?

      • Derp

        Our local Catholic high school costs $10K a year. Our local public high school spends $9K a year to educate each student. Our catholic school has outdated books, shoddy facilities, no computers, unlicensed teachers, no extracurricular programs other than a few sports. Our public schools have state of the art facilities with computers in every room, smart boards, genesis student/parent software, well trained and licensed teachers, and every possible program you could ever imagine. Why on gods green earth would I ever send my kid to a sub standard private school when we have fantastic public schools. My property taxes (which pay for our public schools) are less for one year than the cost of tuition in a private school.

    • Smartie

      And close those “rubber rooms” ………..unions gave NY teachers over $3 million in cosmetic surgery from 2004-2009…………sweet.

  • Marina

    All these comments are very interesting, clearly this is a hot topic for many Americans considering they have children in school, as well as gone through the education systems themselves. 

    I am interested to hear what public school teachers have to say about their pay/how much they feel they should be making. 

  • Observer

    Dear Ms. Shifrin,

    I’d hate to blame this on your teacher, as you are now old enough to know better. You are using the word “notorious” incorrectly. That word has a negative connotation. I think you mean: “Although Massachusetts is widely-recognized for having some of the nation’s best schools…” By the way, though this statement is accurate, you wouldn’t know it because of the notorious “teacher-bashing” that emanates daily from the Boston Globe and the state Department of Education.

    • Marina

      Dear Mr. Observer,

      You are completely right about my misuse of “notorious”, how observant of you (HA!).

      I used notorious in a positive light because of its original derivation from Medieval Latin — silly me! I completely forgot the adjective’s connotation changed in the 17 century when it was frequently associated with derogatory nouns. I am glad you are not blaming my teachers (I had more than one), as they were brilliant and continue to be big influencers in my life. In fact, one of my favorite teachers introduced me to one of my favorite quotes, “To err is human; to forgive, devine.” 

      Thanks again for your correction and have a great evening!


  • The VERY Conservative magazine Forbes analyzed the same data and determined that teachers are the 3rd lowest paid profession requiring a 4-year college degree despite the fact (surprise!) that teachers work 300 hours/year MORE than the average worker. Additionally, some of the “benefits” need to be explained. Maryland is ranked 7th on the list, but note that Maryland teachers and their local boards pay 14.35% of their salary into the state teacher’s pension fund (compared to 12.4% for Social Security), which pays at least 20% LESS in pension than any surrounding state including West Virginia. The average retiree gets about 1/3 his/her last working salary in pension. The Maryland State Teachers Pension includes NO benefits whatsoever, no health insurance, etc. Instead, each countywide union negotiates so that part of the payroll pool of money goes to partly subsidize retirement health insurance for long-term teachers who retire from that county. Teachers do that because they know they’ll be retired one day.
    Also note that teachers start off on a step scale often making less than their county’s starting sanitation workers. But because of the recession and people holding off on retirements, you now have an unusually large number of older teachers making more than those in the middle of the pay scale. Even before the recession, it was so hard to get young people to go into teaching that most large school systems have been recruiting from 3rd world countries: 10% of Baltimore’s teachers are from the Philippines. If teaching was so easy and lucrative do you think that would be necessary?

    • aztecace

      Glad you are aware of the hours worked by teacher, most of the bashers on here do not, all they see is the 2 1/2 to 3 months vacation they have in the summer along with the winter and spring break, and feel they are living the life of Riley. Teacher here in Florida get paid for a 37.5 work week, this does not include all the planning, grading papers, keeping up on their profession, Parent/teachers conferences, PTA meeting, most of all this is done on the teacher’s own dime here, and adds up to many hours over the 37.5 hours a week they get paid for. I see Dakota is the lowest paid on here, but I know that first year teacher in Florida get paid about 38,000 a years, but they also do get benefits like health Ins.

  • AJS

    Until recently, NYC had a shortage of certified teachers of 17,000. That’s more than most entire school systems. Most of the teacher bashers here are always screaming about letting the market determine worth, i.e. supply and demand. Well they should know that if you have a critical and highly illegal situation where you have 17,000 unqualified teachers in the classrooms, the way you fix it is with higher pay, DUH! Oh right, supply and demand only works for the bashers, not teachers. How would the teacher bashers follow the law and have only certified teachers in the classrooms without higher pay?