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Nearly Half of Public School Teachers Are Satisfied With Their Salaries, Data Show

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It's a cliché: Teachers aren't doing their jobs for the money. But teachers who are satisfied with their salaries are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, according to a new analysis of federal data

Forty-five percent of public school teachers said they are satisfied with their teaching salary, while 55 percent said they are not satisfied, according to data from the 2015-16 National Teacher and Principal Survey, a nationally representative sample survey of teachers and principals in the 50 states and the District of Columbia that's conducted by the U.S. Department of Education.

The national average public school teacher salary for 2016-17 was $59,660, according the National Education Association, although that varies widely between states. Teacher pay has been at the forefront of the widespread walkouts, protests, and demonstrations in several states this spring, with teachers calling for higher salaries in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and South Carolina.


See also: See How Your State's Average Teacher Salary Compares


The analysis shows that teachers who think they make a satisfactory amount are more likely to say they like their jobs than teachers who don't. Eighty-two percent of teachers who were satisfied with their salaries agreed that they are satisfied with their jobs, compared to 70 percent of teachers who are dissatisfied with their salaries. Similarly, 80 percent of teachers who are satisfied with their salaries "like the way things are run at [their] school," compared to 67 percent of teachers who aren't satisfied with how much they make. 

Teachers who think they make enough are also less stressed and more enthusiastic about teaching than their peers who are dissatisfied with their paychecks. See the chart below:


See alsoTeacher Pay: How Salaries, Pensions, and Benefits Work in Schools


Here are a few other interesting data points from the analysis:

  • Similar percentages of teachers at traditional public and charter schools said they were satisfied with their salaries.
  • Fewer elementary teachers were satisfied with their salaries than secondary teachers—43 percent compared to 48 percent.
  • Teachers in rural schools were the least likely to be satisfied with their salaries, compared to teachers in city, suburban, and town schools. 
  • Members of teachers' unions were more likely to be satisfied with their salaries than nonmembers—49 percent compared to 37 percent.

The analysis uses data from the U.S. Department of Education survey that was released in August. The National Center for Education Statistics has been releasing new analyses from this dataset periodically—recently, NCES released an analysis showing that teachers spend an average of $479 on classroom supplies.

Image via Getty

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