For example, if a teacher in Virginia and Iowa each make around $59,000 per year, that money would go further in Iowa because Virginia has a higher cost of living. If these salaries were adjusted to compensate for the different costs of living, the teacher in Iowa would make closer to $66,000 and the Virginia teacher would make closer to $58,000.
When considering cost of living adjustments, New York and Massachusetts K-12 teachers are compensated more than teachers in the rest of the country. Adjusted teacher pay is the lowest in Florida.
For the 2021–22 school year, the nation’s average cost-of-living-adjusted K-12 public teacher salary was $64,300. Nineteen states and Washington, DC, paid higher than this national average and 31 states paid less.
Florida had the lowest average adjusted salary at $50,508.
Florida was an outlier compared to other states that pay lower teacher salaries. In the next three states with adjusted salaries close to Florida – Mississippi, South Dakota, and West Virginia – the average teacher salary was within $600 of $55,000, or nearly $5000 more than the average Florida teacher salary.
More than a third of states paid teachers an adjusted average of less than $60,000 per year.
Meanwhile, New York paid the highest teacher salary — $84,218 — when adjusted for cost of living. Massachusetts was second highest, with an average teacher salary of $83,434. This pair was separated by nearly $5,000 from the third-highest teacher salary: $79,125 in Connecticut.
Hawaii’s teacher salary was the most impacted by the cost-of-living adjustment. Hawaii’s unadjusted teacher salary is the 15th highest in the nation, but 35th when taking cost of living into account. Its unadjusted teacher salary of $67,000 is much more difficult to live on compared to a state with a similar nominal teacher salary, such as Minnesota, where the average unadjusted teacher salary is $68,491.
Teachers typically need to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree to work as a K-12 educator. Nationwide, more than half of teachers also have a master’s degree. In 48 states and Washington, DC, teachers generally earn less than the average salary for other workers with a bachelor's or master’s degree.
In two states — New York and Rhode Island — the average unadjusted teacher salary is higher than the average salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree, also not adjusted for cost of living.
Salaries are unadjusted for this comparison because nationwide adjustments aren’t needed for salaries within the same state.
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