Starting salary not always the key in understanding teacher pay

Teachers in Anne Arundel earning more in region when cost of living considered

While young teachers entering the profession may be attracted to school systems with the best starting salaries, a new report by the National Council on Teacher Quality suggests that it isn’t what you make in the first year that is important but how quickly your salary increases.

Teachers in Montgomery County start out at a higher pay scale, but when their lifetime pay and the cost of living in their district is considered, they will fall behind Anne Arundel County teachers.

NCTQ, a nonprofit advocacy group, ranked 113 school systems across the nation and found that while New York City teachers may be start at $43,000 and end as high as $100,000, it can take the teachers a long time to get there and the pay isn’t as high in adjusted dollars.

The report points out the length of time it can take teachers in some school systems to reach a salary that allows them to live a middle-class life.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools ranked 11th on the list, the best ranking of any of the area school systems. Teachers there can earn more than $2 million, adjusted for the cost of living for the area, during their career in the school system, even though they may not have the highest starting salary. The key is that in 13 years, teachers will earn about $75,000.

Baltimore City came in 27th with a lifetime income of $1.9 million with cost of living adjustments. Baltimore County came in 57th with a lifetime income of $1.7 million.

NCTQ assumes for the purposes of the survey that teachers are living in the same county or city they teach in. So a teacher who commutes to Baltimore County from Pennsylvania may do better financially over the lifetime than those teachers who settle in the communities where they work.

Most teachers are compensated based on the number of years they have worked and the degrees they have obtained, but some school systems, such as Baltimore City, have been moving toward a system that factors in teacher performance and the extra work they perform after school or within the school community.

NCTQ recommends that school districts look at more than the top and bottom salaries on their payscale, but also the path teachers must take to get to a salary that will allow them a good standard of living within a reasonable amount of time. Over a lifetime, pay for teachers is far lower than for lawyers and doctors, the study points out.


Due to incorrect information supplied by the National Council on Teacher Quality, the rankings for Baltimore City and Baltimore County were changed from 25th to 27th for the city; and 56th to 57th for the county. 

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