DATA: Arizona teacher pay rising, but still close to the bottom

School, education, teacher, student
Posted at 5:49 PM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-26 22:24:17-04

A report from the National Education Association estimates that Arizona now ranks 44 out of 50 states for average teacher pay, rising by two in the ranks since the previous year.

According to their data, the state teacher salaries averaged $52,157 in the 2020-21 school year, a rise of $1,375. When compared to other states, the 2.7% salary increase in Arizona was the eleventh largest.

Despite the growth, NEA data shows that Arizona teachers are still paid well below other college graduates in the state. Citing a reporting from the Economic Policy Institute, Arizona public teachers make about $0.68 for every dollar earned by other workers with comparable degrees.

This is the second lowest of any state, just ahead of Virginia, which is heavily skewed due to the proximity of the U.S. Capitol and some of the wealthiest regions in the country.

Is low teacher pay in Arizona due to Arizona’s lower cost of living?

The answer is no, since Arizona no longer has a low cost of living. A report from pegs the state’s cost of living at 99.5% of the national index.

State leaders are often roundly criticized for failing to keep up with the cost of education. Governor Ducey’s executive budget plan released in January does show proposed increases. The plan proposes increases in per pupil funding to over $14,000 for the next budget year, which would put Arizona more in line with the national average.

This is just a plan, however, today the state is still waiting on budget bills from the republican controlled state house and senate. Once they are introduced, the negotiations over education funding will begin.

At the national level, the NEA report shows public school teacher salaries averaged $65,293 for the 2020-21 school year, a 1.8% increase over 2019-20.

However, after adjusting for inflation teacher pay has declined 3.9% over the past decade.

They project that teacher pay for the 2021-22 year will increase a further 1.7%, but that recent spikes in inflation around the country mean that real pay has declined.