Coronavirus Reveals How Much Teachers Should Really Be Paid


 Many parents came to a rather abrupt realization during the coronavirus pandemic about just how tough teachers’ jobs are. Parents suddenly became the at-home teacher, pivoting from showing their children the tricks of long division to talking through how to write a five-paragraph essay. And it wasn’t easy. Parents went through a lot this spring to keep kids focused on their work. And teachers do that every day with a classroom full of students with different personalities, learning styles, and personal issues.

For education experts, this is nothing new. “You might think that teachers’ jobs should be to ‘just teach,'” said Dr. Andy Anderson, a retired professor of science education from Michigan State University. “But children are complicated.  Sometimes they need counseling or personal help. Sometimes children bully other children. Sometimes families are in crisis. Teachers see and must respond to all those parts of their students’ lives, working with families and other professionals as well as their students.  So teachers’ jobs are complicated, too.”

And are they earning what they are worth for doing these complicated jobs? GOBankingRates defined just how much teachers in your state are underpaid based on what their specialized skills would fetch in the private sector. Using responses to a poll by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation about just how much time teachers spend on different tasks every day, the study breaks down what it would cost to cover those hours with area specialists getting paid an average wage for their services. And then that amount was compared to the median salary of elementary school teachers in the state. It’s still likely to understate what teachers do — the study does nothing to account for the additional value of having one individual with functional expertise in so many different fields — but it can put a rough dollar figure on just how far from fair teacher pay in America is.

So how underpaid are teachers in your state? Here’s a closer look at where teacher salaries are the most — and least — out of line with the local economy. States are in order from the ones that would need the lowest percentage increase to the highest to pay teachers in line with their value.

California

  • Median salary: $83,360
  • What teachers should be paid: $95,645
  • Percentage increase: 15%

Connecticut

  • Median salary: $78,530
  • What teachers should be paid: $93,050
  • Percentage increase: 18%Girl video blogger or online foreign language teacher writes a training video for their subscribers to upload to social networks.

Massachusetts

  • Median salary: $79,980
  • What teachers should be paid: $94,979
  • Percentage increase: 19%

New York

  • Median salary: $79,220
  • What teachers should be paid: $94,802
  • Percentage increase: 20%

Maryland

  • Median salary: $73,640
  • What teachers should be paid: $90,439
  • Percentage increase: 23%

Alaska

  • Median salary: $73,960
  • What teachers should be paid: $91,850
  • Percentage increase: 24%

Rhode Island

  • Median salary: $75,310
  • What teachers should be paid: $93,952
  • Percentage increase: 25%

Oregon

  • Median salary: $68,180
  • What teachers should be paid: $85,948
  • Percentage increase: 26%

Ohio

  • Median salary: $64,470
  • What teachers should be paid: $81,544
  • Percentage increase: 26%

Pennsylvania

  • Median salary: $66,960
  • What teachers should be paid: $85,124
  • Percentage increase: 27%

Michigan

  • Median salary: $66,030
  • What teachers should be paid: $84,493
  • Percentage increase: 28%

Washington

  • Median salary: $68,600
  • What teachers should be paid: $88,991
  • Percentage increase: 30%

New Jersey

  • Median salary: $69,340
  • What teachers should be paid: $92,029
  • Percentage increase: 33%

Nebraska

  • Median salary: $58,930
  • What teachers should be paid: $78,223
  • Percentage increase: 33%

Hawaii

  • Median salary: $62,730
  • What teachers should be paid: $84,232
  • Percentage increase: 34%

Virginia

  • Median salary: $65,620
  • What teachers should be paid: $88,335
  • Percentage increase: 35%

Delaware

  • Median salary: $62,800
  • What teachers should be paid: $85,173
  • Percentage increase: 36%

Vermont

  • Median salary: $59,850
  • What teachers should be paid: $81,332
  • Percentage increase: 36%

Wisconsin

  • Median salary: $56,760
  • What teachers should be paid: $77,188
  • Percentage increase: 36%

Minnesota

  • Median salary: $61,080
  • What teachers should be paid: $83,109
  • Percentage increase: 36%

Illinois

  • Median salary: $60,250
  • What teachers should be paid: $82,002
  • Percentage increase: 36%

New Hampshire

  • Median salary: $59,340
  • What teachers should be paid: $81,194
  • Percentage increase: 37%

Georgia

  • Median salary: $57,760
  • What teachers should be paid: $79,299
  • Percentage increase: 37%

Utah

  • Median salary: $54,800
  • What teachers should be paid: $75,762
  • Percentage increase: 38%

Wyoming

  • Median salary: $58,570
  • What teachers should be paid: $81,384
  • Percentage increase: 39%

Nevada

  • Median salary: $56,170
  • What teachers should be paid: $78,592
  • Percentage increase: 40%

Iowa

  • Median salary: $53,610
  • What teachers should be paid: $75,937
  • Percentage increase: 42%

New Mexico

  • Median salary: $55,080
  • What teachers should be paid: $78,442
  • Percentage increase: 42%

Kentucky

  • Median salary: $53,180
  • What teachers should be paid: $76,316
  • Percentage increase: 44%

Texas

  • Median salary: $56,550
  • What teachers should be paid: $81,369
  • Percentage increase: 44%

Florida

  • Median salary: $53,540
  • What teachers should be paid: $77,550
  • Percentage increase: 45%

Montana

  • Median salary: $49,750
  • What teachers should be paid: $72,407
  • Percentage increase: 46%

Tennessee

  • Median salary: $51,980
  • What teachers should be paid: $76,152
  • Percentage increase: 47%

Maine

  • Median salary: $51,640
  • What teachers should be paid: $75,967
  • Percentage increase: 47%

North Dakota

  • Median salary: $52,270
  • What teachers should be paid: $77,560
  • Percentage increase: 48%

Kansas

  • Median salary: $48,950
  • What teachers should be paid: $73,350
  • Percentage increase: 50%

Indiana

  • Median salary: $49,370
  • What teachers should be paid: $74,318
  • Percentage increase: 51%

Colorado

  • Median salary: $51,450
  • What teachers should be paid: $78,541
  • Percentage increase: 53%

South Carolina

  • Median salary: $51,600
  • What teachers should be paid: $78,892
  • Percentage increase: 53%

Alabama

  • Median salary: $51,170
  • What teachers should be paid: $78,322
  • Percentage increase: 53%

Arkansas

  • Median salary: $47,990
  • What teachers should be paid: $73,554
  • Percentage increase: 53%

Idaho

  • Median salary: $46,420
  • What teachers should be paid: $71,739
  • Percentage increase: 55%

Louisiana

  • Median salary: $47,900
  • What teachers should be paid: $74,326
  • Percentage increase: 55%

Missouri

  • Median salary: $46,320
  • What teachers should be paid: $74,350
  • Percentage increase: 61%

North Carolina

  • Median salary: $48,000
  • What teachers should be paid: $77,272
  • Percentage increase: 61%

West Virginia

  • Median salary: $44,940
  • What teachers should be paid: $73,979
  • Percentage increase: 65%

South Dakota

  • Median salary: $44,030
  • What teachers should be paid: $72,853
  • Percentage increase: 65%

Arizona

  • Median salary: $44,780
  • What teachers should be paid: $75,663
  • Percentage increase: 69%

Mississippi

  • Median salary: $43,530
  • What teachers should be paid: $73,781
  • Percentage increase: 69%

Oklahoma

  • Median salary: $42,180
  • What teachers should be paid: $72,463
  • Percentage increase: 72%

    Methodology: As Americans anticipate an unprecedented school year, GOBankingRates took a closer look at the varied tasks typically undertaken by teachers and the value of this labor. First, GOBankingRates looked at the breakdown of time teachers spend on various tasks during a typical school day according to the 2012 Primary Sources report from Scholastic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which surveyed over 10,000 teachers across the country. Then, GOBankingRates identified the core skills required to perform each task and referenced the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook to find other professions that require similar skill sets. GOBankingRates used May 2019 wage data from the BLS to find the median annual and hourly pay rate for each highlighted profession in every state. This allowed GOBankingRates to calculate how much teachers in each state would be compensated for the time they spend on each daily task if they were paid at a rate comparable to the wage earned by a professional in their area with similar skills and duties. Finally, GOBankingRates was able to estimate a hypothetical median annual salary for teachers if they were compensated not just at their regular rate for classroom instruction, but also for all of their non-instruction and after-school tasks at the median rate for professionals who exercise similar skills in their work. GOBankingRates presents (1) the estimated median annual salary for teachers in every state at this adjusted rate alongside the (2) actual May 2019 median annual salary for elementary school teachers, and (3) the percent difference between the two. All data were collected on and up to date as of Aug. 12-13, 2020.

    NOTE: Because most teachers are compensated annually despite the seasonal nature of many school schedules and typically perform other duties over school breaks, GOBankingRates did not estimate a 9-month salary.