CHICAGO (NewsNation) — The U.S. is facing a massive teacher shortage, the worst of which is found in rural areas in America’s inner cities.
The majority of teachers nationwide are earning less than they did a decade ago due to inflation and constant state budget cuts and it’s a contributor to the nationwide shortage. High stress is also a factor in the shortage, which has worsened since the start of the Great Recession, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Now, some U.S. governors are hoping to address the pay problem, but is this push too late?
So far in 2023, governors in Georgia and Arkansas have pushed through teacher pay increases.
More than half of the states’ governors over the past year — 26 so far — have proposed boosting teacher compensation, according to groups that track it. The nonprofit Teacher Salary Project said it is the most it has seen in nearly two decades of tracking.
Delaware Gov. John Carney said hiring good teachers has gotten harder, and boosting their pay is important to “win the competition with surrounding states.”
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has mentioned offering performance bonuses to teachers. While Idaho Gov. Brad Little is working to increase its teacher’s starting salary to the top 10 in the nation.
The national average public school teacher salary in 2021-22 increased 2% from the previous year to $66,745, according to the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union. Inflation peaked around 9% at the time.
New York leads the nation with an average teacher salary of $80,286, according to a WalletHub survey. It’s followed by Illinois and Michigan. Washington, D.C. is the least-paid jurisdiction with an average teacher salary of $50,556, according to the survey.
The U.S. median annual teacher salary is $61,820 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However, some educational leaders have said it may be too little, too late, because dealing with oversized class sizes, ever-growing workloads, and a lack of substitute teachers is taking its toll.
“Teaching six hours a day, grueling, physically demanding job, being on your feet, three sets of eyes, monitoring kids,” said Dr. Rebecca Good, an education expert. “There are some other influences besides the money that are at work, parents discouraging their kids wanting to become teachers.”
Yet, research shows increasing pay across the board may have a minimal long-term impact, and money would be better spent focusing on where the shortages are and raising pay in those specific locations.
Ed Fuller, a Penn State associate professor who studies teacher quality and turnover, said what is difficult to research is the effect a raise has on a college student’s decision to enter a teacher preparation program — and take on debt.
NewsNation’s Taylor Delandro and The Associated Press contributed to this report.