Here’s Why Teacher Pay Should Be Important to More Than Just Educators

Pictured: Teachers and supporters hold signs and march during a protest over the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. Credit: Paul Frangipane/Bloomberg/Getty Images

In 2018, teacher protests swept the country with educators speaking out against widespread public school budget cuts and wage stagnation. Those protests led to strikes, including the Los Angeles teachers' strike in Grand Park on January 22, 2019, in Los Angeles, California. There, thousands of teachers — and supportive parents and students — celebrated a seeming victory when the United Teachers Los Angeles union and the Los Angeles Unified School District struck a deal that included capping class sizes, providing funding for school nurses and increasing educator pay.

While this victory was significant, it also serves as a testament to the ongoing issues plaguing the United States’ education system. If waves of protestors aren’t enough to convince you of the problems surrounding teacher pay (and other concerns raised by educators), then maybe these shocking numbers will. listed $44,926 as the average starting salary for public educators on August 27, 2021. On the other end of the pay scale, top-paid U.S. elementary school teachers make $71,000 annually, while top-paid high school teachers make between $71,000 - $81,000 a year on average. Meanwhile, in Luxembourg, the highest average salary for elementary school teachers is 114,000 euros (or $133,316.16) annually.

Looking at things on a state-by-state basis, New York teachers come out on top, making a median salary of $85,258 (via USA Today) — though New York also requires teachers to earn a master’s degree within their first five years of being on the job, a caveat that can create more barriers for fledgling educators. Other states that compare to New York’s payscale include California, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Alaska, but so many others land on the opposite end of the spectrum, including Oklahoma, where "half of all teachers are [made] less than $33,630 a year" in 2019.