Just the Facts: Teacher Salaries

Published February 1, 2003

The nation’s most prolific producer of education statistics is, not surprisingly, the U.S. Department of Education, whose National Center for Education Statistics collects and publishes a huge variety of education data on such matters as student enrollment, test scores, school staffing, and graduation rates.

Another not so surprising source of education statistics is the National Education Association, whose Research Department produces an annual “Rankings & Estimates” report on school statistics, which is a much-quoted source of national and state-level data on teacher salaries.

Last November, NEA Research produced a Fall 2002 update to its “Rankings & Estimates” report for the school year 2001-02. According to this supplemental report, the average public school teacher salary for school year 2001-02 was $44,499, up 2.7 percent from 2000-01. Public school enrollments were up 1.0 percent to 47,416,002, while the number of teachers rose 1.7 percent to 2,968,904. The student-teacher ratio fell from 16.1 in 2000-01 to 16.0 in 2001-02. Total expenditures on education, including capital and interest, rose 5.1 percent to $413.0 billion in 2001-02.

While NEA Research reports teacher salaries and other statistics in rank order by state, in the table below School Reform News places the data for a particular state in context by reporting it as a percentage of the national average. For example, California teachers are paid 121 percent of the national average, while South Dakota teachers are paid 70 percent of the national average. Similar reporting is provided for the student-teacher ratio and total expenditures per pupil.

To place teacher salaries in the context of total expenditures, each state’s teacher salaries were multiplied by the number of teachers to produce state-level expenditures on teachers. When reported as a percentage of total expenditures, these figures show large variations by state. For example, almost half (47.6 percent) of all education spending in North Dakota goes to teacher salaries. By contrast, in the District of Columbia–where total expenditures per pupil top the nation at a remarkable $15,371 per student–only one in five (21.8 percent) education dollars is spent on teacher salaries.

For more information …

The Fall 2002 Update of the National Education Association’s “Rankings & Estimates” report is available online at http://www.nea.org/edstats/reupdate02.html. The previous full report is available at http://www.nea.org/edstats/images/02rankings.pdf.