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States Jump-Start Efforts to Boost Teacher Pay

By Molly Gold  |  February 23, 2022

Teacher salaries continue to lag behind those of college graduates in other professions, but many states are revisiting efforts to give them a raise.

Teachers are about 30% more likely to work a second job compared with their counterparts working in other professions, according to the Center for American Progress. Activism and rising attention to low teacher pay prompted many states to pass teacher pay raises before the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, some states paused those salary increases due to economic uncertainties and declines in revenue. Now, with state economies rebounding, they are revisiting efforts to increase teacher compensation.

Teacher Pay as Teacher Retention

Many factors affect teachers’ decisions to leave the profession, but low pay is consistently cited as a main reason. Concerns that working conditions during the pandemic will cause more teachers to leave the profession, exacerbating existing shortages, are supported by a national survey conducted by Education Week. Additionally, because teachers tend to leave the profession when the economy is doing well, recent state economic growth may increase the likelihood more teachers will resign.

State Efforts to Increase Teacher Salaries

Twenty-five states have enacted or proposed legislation to increase teacher compensation since January 2021. Ten of those states have a statewide teacher salary schedule; eight have minimum teacher salary requirements; and seven have neither a statewide teacher salary nor minimum salary requirements.

States in all three categories proposed legislation involving differentiated pay scales for teachers serving high-needs schools or teaching hard-to-staff subject areas, and career ladder programs that include corresponding salary increases.

Among states with statewide teacher salary schedules, initiatives primarily included revisions to increase pay and expand eligibility for pay increases and bonuses. In states with minimum teacher salary requirements, lawmakers proposed increasing the minimums, incentivizing salary increases and funding across-the-board increases. Initiatives in states without a statewide salary schedule or minimum salary requirement largely focus on providing state funding to increase salaries.

Here are some examples of recently proposed legislation to increase teacher pay:

  • Mississippi House Bill 530 would create the Strategically Accelerating the Recruitment and Retention of Teachers Act of 2022, which revises the minimum teacher salary scale by increasing the minimum salary ($43,000 for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no years of experience).
  • Oklahoma House Bill 2692 would create a pilot program to support advanced roles for teachers and school leaders, including a requirement to provide increased compensation for teachers who demonstrate advanced roles.
  • Missouri House Bill 1770 would allow school districts to create a differentiated teacher salary schedule to increase compensation to recruit and retain teachers in hard-to-staff subject areas or hard-to-staff schools.
  • New Mexico Senate Bill 1 would increase the minimum salary by $10,000 for licensed teachers.
  • Virginia House Bill 535 would require public school teachers to be compensated at a rate at or above the national average and state funding to be provided in a sum sufficient to fund a 4.5% annual increase for public school teacher salaries.

Molly Gold is a senior policy specialist in NCSL’s Education Program.

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