Teachers’ salaries are the highest in over a decade. Why it’s still not enough

May 1, 2024, 6:43 PM | Updated: 7:04 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A new study shows teacher salaries across the country have jumped higher than they have in more than a dozen years. Once inflation is factored in though, numbers take a nosedive.

The study released by the National Education Association shows that the national average salary for teachers is $69,544. Utah’s average is $63,481, which ranks the state number 23 overall, but it also ranks number 10 in the nation for average starting salary at $49,555.

Nationwide there was a 3.9% increase in salaries which is the largest in 14 years. But the study shows that with inflation, it drops $4,273 below 2008-2009 salary levels. The study also reports that overall teachers are making 5% less than 10 years ago.

“It’s the hardest job in the world, but there is no other job that is more satisfying,” said 6th grade teacher John Arthur. “I love being a teacher.”

He has been teaching at Meadowlark Elementary school in Salt Lake for 11 years. But Arthur said the pay has to change if the state wants to keep teachers.

“If you are going to get more people to enter the teaching profession you have to have a higher starting salary otherwise you can’t attract talent,” he said.

Arthur has two master’s degrees and he won the Utah Teacher of the Year award in 2021. Although, he said his wife still has to work for their family of two kids to make ends meet.

“The realities of our situation are we don’t get paid enough to take care of other people’s children,” he said. “I’m able to earn, as a teacher in the Salt Lake City School District, over $80,000 a year. But given inflation and cost of living and the housing market, that’s not enough to support a family of four on that income alone.”

He says someone with his education would be making much more.

“If I wanted to, I could go out into the private sector and get a much higher-paying job. I’ve turned down offers that if I was trying to make a good financial decision, I would have snatched up immediately, but because I love what I do I’ve sacrificed high wages for more satisfying work,” Arthur said.

Renée Pinkney, the president of the Utah Education Association said Utah has made some great strides, but still has to do better.

“We are seeing those increases, and don’t get me wrong, we are incredibly grateful for that. But again, we have to have competitive salaries, so that we have enough highly qualified educators in every single classroom,” she said. “It’s just a shame that we can’t have educators receiving compensation packages, and being able to make ends meet without having a second job or leaving the profession altogether.”

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Teachers’ salaries are the highest in over a decade. Why it’s still not enough