The 2020-2021 Teacher Salary Benchmark Report produced by the National Education Association was released on April 26, 2022 and included troubling information regarding the salaries of educators and support staff. According to the report, educators make 19.2% less per week than other college-educated workers with similar characteristics, dispelling the notion that the salaries of public school employees are low due to summer vacation.
A February survey by NEA found that 55% of educators are considering leaving the field, which would be devastating for students, families, and communities.
Amanda Curtis, President of the Montana Federation of Public Employees, which represents Montana’s educators, support staff, and counselors, released the following statement in response to the report’s finding:
“As a former educator myself, I know no one chooses to work in public education to get rich. Like all public employees, we do it because we are purpose-driven. However, the lack of serious investment in Montana’s public schools is simply unsustainable. Teachers, schools, and students are under-resourced and lack the support they need. We have limited time to address this problem before it spirals into a crisis.”
According to the Rankings of the States 2021 (also released by the National Education Association Research this month), state spending only accounts for 39% of school revenue in Montana, compared to an average of 46.8% in other states.
The NEA survey also found that 96% of professionals in education believe the best way to address burnout is to raise salaries, provide additional mental health and behavioral services for students, and hire more teachers and support staff.
Montana currently ranks last for starting teacher salary for educators with a B.A. and 50th for educators with a master’s degree, though salaries become more competitive by mid-career. Salaries for Montana’s support staff in K12 schools rank 30th, while the salaries of those in higher education rank 45th. To make matters worse, politicians are looking to cut mental and behavioral health services in our public schools.
The 2021 TEACH Act is often touted as the solution to the recruitment and retention problems facing Montana. However, the legislation did not provide adequate funding to many under-resourced school districts that remain unable to meet the salary thresholds set by the TEACH Act. Without additional state investment, understaffed schools will continue to struggle to attract and retain staff.