Updated figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that Arizona remains 49th in the nation for median elementary teacher pay and, while the gap has slightly narrowed, Arizona is still nearly $13,000 behind the national median. While Arizona teachers have seen increased pay recently, so have teachers across the country.
Updated salary data was analyzed and adjusted for cost of living by researchers at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy to inform the Arizona Education Progress Meter, which provides a vision for what the community wants education in our state to look like, including teacher pay that is on par with the national median. The Education Progress Meter goal is to reach the national median by 2022.
2018: The national median teacher salary was $58,230, while Arizona’s median teacher salary was $45,353, ranking the state 49th in the nation.
2017: The national median teacher salary was $57,160, while Arizona’s median teacher salary was $44,990, ranking the state 49th in the nation.
2016: The national median teacher salary was $55,800, while Arizona’s median teacher salary was $42,474, ranking the state 50th in the nation.
A look at the median salary of other professions in Arizona that require a similar level of education and training show they fare much better in national salary rankings. This includes accountants, civil engineers, occupational therapists and physician assistants. It should be noted that teacher pay as reported by the BLS reflects salary information for the calendar year. As a result, the full teacher pay raise included in the FY19 budget is only partially reflected in the 2018 BLS data.
Targeted fixes and one-time expenditures serve demonstrated needs of education, but they don’t get us where we need to be in the long-term. Arizona’s recently passed fiscal year 2020 budget includes another installment of a multi-year pay increase for teachers, but even when the full 20 percent increase is realized it won’t be enough to close the gap between median pay in Arizona and the national median.
“If we expect student achievement to improve and our communities to thrive, Arizona’s teacher salaries must be competitive with other states,” says Christine Thompson, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona. “The state will not reach the national median in teacher pay or other Education Progress Meter goals without significant investments in education, and significant investments will require tough conversations about new revenue sources. The longer we wait, the further behind we fall.”