A recent report by the nation's top teachers union revealed that despite a chaotic two years of teaching remotely and in-person during the pandemic, teachers' pay has barely kept up.
The National Education Association (NEA) found that average salaries for public school teachers over 2020-2021 increased by 1.8% from the previous year to $65,293 — but when adjusted for inflation, the number had actually declined by 3.9% over the past decade.
The weak growth in wages amid a historic shortage of teachers — with many quitting early due to the stresses of the pandemic — was blasted by NEA President Becky Pringle.
"Our nation's public school educators are in this place where they're juggling high stress and crumbling schools, challenging working conditions and low pay," the union leader said during a press call, later adding: "They remain dedicated and of course committed to their students, but they are also exhausted, and they overwhelmed, and they feeling under-appreciated."
Starting teacher salaries have sunk to the lowest level since the Great Recession while the average starting teacher salary for 2020-2021 increased by 1.4% year-over-year to $41,770.
When adjusted for inflation, this figure was a 4% decrease from the previous year, "undoing all the gains made over the previous two years," the NEA report said.
Paying teachers more is a simple method to solving the shortfall, a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute stated.
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, state and local public education employment — ranging from K-12 teachers to school bus drivers to school custodians — have fallen by nearly 5% overall, the EPI authors noted.
Past research conducted by the think tank estimated that there's a massive gap in wages earned by teachers as compared to other groups: Public K–12 school teachers are paid 19.2% less than similar workers in other occupations.
Consequently, EPI said, lawmakers "should tap into the hundreds of billions of dollars in federal COVID relief funds available now to raise pay for education staff, enact strong COVID protections, invest in teacher development programs, and experiment with ways to support part-time and part-year staff when school is not in session. They also need to plan for sustainable long-term investments in the K–12 public education workforce."
Meanwhile, a separate survey by the NEA in February sounded the alarm on the teacher shortage potentially worsening. According to the union's survey, 55% of educators were thinking about quitting the profession earlier than planned, which was up from just 37% in August 2021.
Aarthi is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.