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Mapping the Great American Teacher Pay Gap

While the public employee walkouts started with West Virginia, many other U.S. states pay teachers far less than other college-educated professionals—often much less.
Oklahoma teachers (and Milo, the dog) are demanding increases in school funding; their strike entered its 10th day on Wednesday.
Oklahoma teachers (and Milo, the dog) are demanding increases in school funding; their strike entered its 10th day on Wednesday. Sue Ogrocki/AP

For years, West Virginia public employees watched their wages stagnate and insurance premiums rise. So, in February, they staged a walkout to fight for—and win—a 5 percent pay increase. Those efforts inspired teachers in other states to follow suit: Kentucky teachers are threatening a walk-out this month if their pensions are cut; in Arizona, teachers are rallying for a 20 percent wage increase. And in Oklahoma, teachers are now entering their second week of closed schools. On Monday, some walked 15 miles to the state capitol building to demand $150 million more in funding and a 10 percent wage increase.

But it’s not just that these teachers are underpaid—it’s that they make much less than college-educated peers working in other professions across the country. And that gap persists nationwide. “There is no state where teacher wages are equal to or better than those of other college graduates,” a report by economist Sylvia Allegretto from the Economic Policy Institute reveals.