Teacher Pay in 2021: Five Years of Progress

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For years, we’ve closely tracked how Oklahoma stacks up when it comes to teacher pay. The reason is simple: children need and deserve the best teachers. Oklahoma remains in a teacher shortage and must stay competitive to keep and reward the great teachers already in our classrooms. Just as important, our state must be regionally competitive in the teacher labor market to attract the best and brightest into the profession.

We also believe it’s important for local education leaders to have the facts so we’re pleased to share information and insights with from the latest national report on teacher pay. We’re also including an update on the teacher shortage. You can download a PDF of the key data points here.

The new teacher pay data shows back-to-back pay increases in 2017 and 2018 as well as new education funding in 2019 have helped Oklahoma lead the region in teacher pay increases over the last five years. But it also highlights the importance of continued investment in public education to remain competitive with other states and reduce the teacher shortage.

The newly released Rankings and Estimates annual report from the National Education Association collects information from state Education Departments. The average salary is gross salary before deductions for retirement, health insurance, etc.

Key data highlights include:

  • The average Oklahoma teacher will earn an estimated $54,256 in pay and benefits this school year.
  • That’s a 20% increase over five years ago when average teacher compensation was $45,292.
  • While the legislature approved an average pay raise of $7,300 during the 2017 and 2018 sessions, the nearly $9,000 increase over the last five years means districts also directed other resources into teacher pay.
  • Surrounding states are also increasing public education investment, causing Oklahoma’s teacher compensation to drop just below the $54,943 average of surrounding states.
  • Colorado, which already led the region in teacher pay, saw an increase of nearly $3,000 since last year and became the first of surrounding states to top $60,000 in average teacher pay.
  • Kansas increased its average teacher pay by more than $2,600 and now ranks just behind Oklahoma with average pay of $53,932.
  • Missouri and Arkansas have the lowest teacher pay in the region, although the Arkansas legislature is currently considering a $2,000 pay increase.

As we near the end of the school year, we also wanted to share with you informative data on the teacher shortage. This school year, state education officials approved 2,797 emergency teaching certificates. That’s lower than last year’s record high of 3,321 and lower than two years ago, but it’s too early to know whether the dip is temporary due to the pandemic or perhaps the start of a trend. We’ll hope for the latter!

Next Steps for Local Education Leaders

Think Local: You might wonder what you should do with this information. Just as you might compare your district’s teacher compensation schedule to surrounding or like-size districts, this information helps you see how your local pay stacks up statewide and to surrounding states. The increased investment in teacher pay may also be valuable information to share with your staff and for those districts that negotiate with teachers through a collective bargaining process.

Share the Good News: Please be sure to share this good news with your community. Remind those in your school community and the community at-large what your school has been able to accomplish with the increased investment in education, and the district’s plans for the future should public investment in education continue. Encourage them to be advocates within their own communities and with their legislators. Need advocacy tips? Check out our toolkit!

Advocate: Local education leaders are critical and persuasive public education advocates – and knowledge is power. Please use this information to thank lawmakers for the new investment over the last few years and talk with them about how it’s been positive for students by keeping great educators in the classroom, hiring the most promising new teachers, offering new health and mental supports, and ensuring students have the learning resources they need. It’s budget-crafting time at the state Capitol, and we know more progress is needed. Lawmakers need to hear from YOU about how new resources will allow your district to innovate and even better support students in the future. Remember, while our progress on teacher pay is great news, we are still last in the region when it comes to per-student education investment. We can do better!