Linking education to U.S. economic prosperity is not exactly a novel idea, and research time and time again has supported this philosophy. However, improving the country's education system could be a long haul, according to a new study by the Economic Policy Institute. The problem? It's hard to recruit the best college grads to the sector when teachers get paid less than other college graduates with similar occupations, the study says.
Here's what public school teachers earn weekly on average. Only the states in green pay their teachers more than $1,000 a week.
On average, whether teachers have a bachelor's or a master's degree, they earn 78.6 percent of what other workers with the same educational level get paid.
The chart below shows the best and worst states for teachers' earning parity. In Arizona teachers earn about 63 percent of what other college grads in the state do. Wyoming comes close to 100 percent, but still misses the mark.
It wasn't always this way. Back in 1980, those choosing the "noble profession" earned just 8.5 percent less than workers in similar professions that year. That discount has grown to 17 percent in 2015, according to EPI.
In fact, women used to do better if they chose the teaching profession over another field. With widening career possibilities, non-teaching women now earn more. Men, however, have always had to accept lower pay than their graduating classmates if they go into teaching.
Meanwhile, the number of education workers has declined between the third quarter of 2008 and the third quarter of 2016, according to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. At the same time, the number of students enrolled in K-12 schools has jumped by more than 1 million students during the same period.
States are cutting personnel while also cutting salaries, said Lawrence Mishel, an economist for EPI. "They have to look in the mirror and decide what their commitment is to their students," he said. "If they have a strong commitment to improving the education for their students, they need to think about investing in their staff."