New Times: Median pay for teachers is trending upward

Friday, April 6, 2018

Phoenix New Times reported that Arizona elementary teachers are no longer the worst-compensated in the country, but rather second-to-last behind Oklahoma.

New teacher pay numbers from Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University indicate that the median teacher pay in Arizona inched up slightly between 2016 and 2017. Elementary teacher pay increased around 4.7 percent, but Arizona's way behind neighboring states. When adjusted for cost-of-living, elementary teacher pay in Arizona ranks 49th nationwide.

Arizona's median high-school teacher pay also moved up one spot, to 48th. Arizona elementary teachers earn a median wage of $44,990 and high school teachers earn $48,306, the institute says.

Before you start to cheer, keep in mind that our new ranking might not last very long. Oklahoma's legislature recently passed a bill to give teachers a $6,000 raise. The statewide school walkout has stretched into its fourth day. If the successful teacher strike in West Virginia last month is any indication, Oklahoma's lawmakers might pass an even bigger pay raise for teachers.

The advocacy group Expect More Arizona, which argues that Arizona should invest more dollars in education, released the updated statistics from the Morrison Institute on Thursday.

Dan Hunting, senior policy analyst at Morrison Institute, said that the pay figures culled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are solid. But he cautioned against interpreting the new numbers to say that Arizona teachers received a raise in 2016-17. Median pay is trending upward, Hunting said, but the new figure "doesn’t necessarily reflect that teachers are getting paid more."

Because the numbers are based on the BLS employer survey, there is a slight gray area. Plus, the movement of teachers in and out of classrooms statewide makes it hard to say definitively where teacher pay stands. If Arizona lost a significant number of first-year teachers, that could inflate the median pay figure because higher-paid senior teachers would be over-represented in the survey.

"Teachers appear to be making somewhat more," Hunting said. "How much more is a matter of some conjecture."

READ: Report: Arizona Soars to 49th in Elementary Teacher Pay – For Now