University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

National Opinions on Teacher Salary

In The View from the OEP on August 22, 2018 at 11:34 am

This week the education journal Education Next released its annual poll examining nation-wide attitudes toward major issues in K-12 education.  The poll surveyed more than 4,600 respondents (a nationally-representative sample), covered 10 main topics, and compared the results with those of prior years. Today we wanted to focus on questions in the EdNext poll about teacher salaries and consider the issue through an Arkansas lens.

Teacher Salary_EdNext2018

  • Respondents underestimated annual average teacher salaries by over  31%. The average response for a yearly salary of a public school teacher in their local district was $40,181, which was more than $18,000 less than the actual average teacher salary of $58,297.
  • Parents underestimated local teacher salaries by 30%, an amount similar to the general public.
  • Teachers’ guesses about annual teacher salary were closer to the actual amount than were those of parents or the general public, but still underestimated teacher salaries by over 20%.

Average Arkansas Teacher Salaries: The average salary for classroom teachers in Arkansas was $49,615 for school districts including charters (2016-17). In June, the Bureau of Legislative Research produced a brief and report on Arkansas teacher compensation, which indicated that Arkansas teacher salaries are near the middle of the pack when compared to surrounding states and those in the broader region as well.  You can check salaries for your district here. As mentioned here, OEP examined teacher salaries in depth in this report and policy brief.  We found that differences in teacher salary are greatest within regions of the state, and are most associated with student-to-teacher ratios and enrollment.

Teacher Salary Change_EdNext2018Scale

  • Respondents widely supported increasing teacher salaries, with 67% of the general public, 74% of parents, and 86% of teachers indicating that they felt teacher salaries should increase.

Teacher Salary Given_EdNext2018Scale

  • When provided with the actual amount that teachers are making, however, respondents were less supportive of increasing teacher salaries.  When told how much teachers earn, 49% of the general public and 53% of parents indicated that salaries should increase, a decline of 20% from when the question was asked without salary information included. Teachers, however, were only slightly less supportive of salary increases when actual salary information was provided.
  • Compared to last year’s results, however, the respondents were 13 percentage points more likely to support increases in teacher salary when provided the actual salary information.  This may reflect the impact of teacher strikes and widespread discussions of teacher salary throughout the nation.

Changes to Arkansas Teacher Salaries: Changes to Arkansas teacher salaries are being discussed, with gubernatorial candidates proposing increases.  Statutory minimum teacher salary has increased in each of the last four years, and the vast majority (87%) of districts in the state have a minimum salary that is higher that legally required. We support attracting and retaining high-quality teachers, but we want to make sure that changes in teacher salary are implemented in a way that makes a difference for Arkansas students.

National perspectives on education like those presented in the EdNext poll are interesting, but education policy is generally set at the state or local level.  We thought it was helpful to compare the national results to what is happening in Arkansas. If you would like to read more about the national perspectives, you can go here, and if you would like to know more about what is happening in education in Arkansas- you are already where you need to be!

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