District Trendline

March 2014: Teacher Salaries and Housing Affordability

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March 2014: Teacher Salaries and Housing Affordability

After a break of a couple of months, we're excited to bring back the Teacher Trendline series with one of our most popular topics:  teacher salaries. When we presented last year's salary data, we received some well-deserved criticism about adjusting for cost-of-living differences. This year, in addition to our salary data, we've approached this issue in the last section of this Trendline, by looking at housing affordability and teachers' purchasing power for each of the cities in our database.

In 2013-2014, the average salary in NCTQ Teacher Contract Database districts for a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree is about $40,030.

At the other end of teachers' careers, for those with master's degrees (which most teachers have), the salary scale tops out, on average, at $69,930.

The highest salaries, both at the beginning and end of a teacher's career, are listed in the tables below. Click here to see a list of salaries for all 116 districts in the Teacher Contract Database.

While there has been some movement of districts since last year within the "Top Ten" for lowest and highest teacher salaries, this year's list looks a lot like last year's salary breakdown.

It's important to note that several of the districts that appear in the top ten highest salary list-- D.C., Baltimore City, Newark, Pittsburgh, and Harrison (CO)--have  implemented performance-based pay systems. In Baltimore City, Pittsburgh and Harrison, teachers progress on the salary schedule based, in part, on high evaluation ratings. In Pittsburgh and Harrison, salaries are listed as a range; the higher end of those ranges is listed above. In D.C. and Newark, teachers receive significant bonuses based on performance, but because bonuses aren't the same as a salary, they are not included in the salaries listed in the table above.

Pay increases

We also took a look at the average pay increase for earning an additional year of experience and adjustments for cost-of-living and other factors.

This year, across the 105 districts in which we could calculate this year-to-year change, teachers received a 3.36 percent average pay increase.

Highest and lowest average annual increases

It's worth mentioning that Sioux Falls (SD) had the largest salary increase this year of any district in our Teacher Contract Database, yet it still ranks in the list for lowest salaries. Clearly the district has made an aggressive step to move out of the bottom ranks, moving from 2nd lowest paying district to now the 9th lowest paying district for starting salary and 6th lowest paying district for typical ending salary.

Putting salaries in context: housing affordability & teacher salaries

Adding a bit more context to this discussion, we looked at housing affordability for teachers. After all, if a district is near the top of the list of highest paying districts and their teachers cannot afford housing in the area, that's indicative of unequal purchasing power between high and low cost-of-living districts.

In order to look at housing affordability, we created the "Teacher Housing Affordability Index." We used the American Community Survey's 5-year estimates for median housing values from 2008-2012 by school district geographic area to estimate housing prices. Dividing a teacher's annual salary by the median home value produced the affordability index. We've identified housing as "affordable" when the annual teacher's salary is greater than one-third of median home value.[5]

It's clear from the graphic below that a higher salary does not necessarily mean a more comfortable way of living.

We looked at the least and most affordable districts based on the Teacher Housing Affordability Index, over the length of a career for teachers.

The map below shows the Teacher Housing Affordability Index for a 5th year teacher with a master's degree. The salary teachers earn at the 5-year mark is an important milestone to consider. It is a common point in teachers' careers when many are making a decision of whether or not to stay in the classroom, and their ability to buy a house may be an important factor.

There are clear geographic differences in teachers' purchasing power. In most districts in the Midwest, teachers can feasibly afford a home at the 5-year career mark.[6] Teachers on both the East and West Coast have relatively low purchasing power, with the exception of a few standout districts in the Northeast (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Rochester and Buffalo).

To view an interactive map of the Teacher Housing Affordability Index over the length of a teacher's career, click here.

[1] First-year teachers with a BA.

[2] Teacher with an MA on the highest salary step.

[3] First-year teachers with a BA.

[4] Teacher with an MA on the highest salary step.

[5] The Teacher Housing Affordability Index is a blunt instrument for estimating housing affordability; we don't account for mortgage rates, down payments or variability in location or housing types. 

[6] Fifth-year teacher with an MA.