Report: Inflation-adjusted pay for Missouri teachers declined 7.4% since 2002



(The Center Square) – The average inflation-adjusted salary for a Missouri public school teacher declined 7.4% during the last 18 years while the cost of employee benefits increased 53.9%, according to research compiled by a nonprofit, nonpartisan and libertarian organization.

“Public Education at a Crossroads: A Comprehensive Look at K-12 Resources and Outcomes for All 50 States,” was recently published by the Reason Foundation. The 60-page report identified five key trends facing public education, including funding, salaries, staffing versus enrollment, employee benefits and test scores.

In Missouri, the average inflation-adjusted teacher salary went from $54,866 in 2002 when it was ranked 44th to $50,817 and ranked 43rd in 2020. Half the states showed a decline in the category with Indiana showing the greatest drop at 18.9%, from $63,818 in 2002 to $51,745 in 2020.

“Nationwide, inflation-adjusted average teacher salaries fell by 0.6% between 2002 and 2020 with a total of 26 states seeing declines,” according to the report. “Teacher salaries grew the most in Washington, Massachusetts and New York while Indiana, Michigan, and Florida saw the largest declines. In 2020, the average teacher salary in the U.S. was $64,133, with three states – New York, California, and Massachusetts – all exceeding $80,000.”

Education funding throughout the nation reached historic levels before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the report stated. It found growth in public school staffing exceeded growth in student enrollment and there isn’t a “consistent relationship” between increased funding and outcomes.

Missouri’s inflation-adjusted education revenue of $12,402 per student was 6% higher than 2002 and ranked 46th in the nation. In 2002, Missouri was ranked 39th and was $11,702 per student. The amount is calculated by adding federal, state and local education funding.

“Nationwide, inflation-adjusted K-12 revenues grew by $3,213 per student or 25% between 2002 and 2020,” the report stated. “During this time, nearly every state increased education funding with per student revenues increasing by at least 10% in 41 states and growth exceeding 50% in New York, New Hampshire, Illinois, North Dakota and Washington.”

Missouri was ranked 30th with $2,267 per student spent on employee benefits. The amount was 53.9% higher than the $1,473 spent in 2002.

“Overall, inflation-adjusted spending on employee benefits increased in all 50 states between 2002 and 2020, growing by $1,499 per student or 78.6% nationwide,” the report stated. “This Census expenditure category includes pensions, social security, health insurance, life insurance, worker’s compensation, unemployment compensation and tuition reimbursement.”

The research highlighted commentary by Robert Costrell, a professor of education reform and economics at the University of Arkansas, who wrote growth in spending per student is being driven by rising teacher pension costs due to unfunded liabilities accumulating over time.

Missouri’s expenditures for instruction, including salaries, benefits, supplies, materials and contractual services, was $6,364 per student in 2020 and ranked 47th. The amount was 3.1% greater than 2002 when the state was ranked 35th and spent $6,173.

The report found Missouri’s reading scores for fourth and eighth graders declined while math scores increased between 2003 and 2019 as all ranked between 34th and 46th in the nation.

Between 2002 and 2020, staffing growth exceeded student growth in 39 of 50 states.

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