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US teacher salaries lag behind other developed countries

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By Agence France-Presse

Schoolteachers in the United States, who have gone on strike in several states, earn less in relative terms than educators in other developed countries.

Teachers in the United States earn, on average, less than 60 percent of the salaries of similarly-educated workers in the country, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Among OECD nations where data is available, relative earnings of US teachers rank below those of other countries surveyed, according to the OECD report, “Education at a Glance 2017.”

“(US) teachers’ actual salaries (including bonuses and allowances) remain below the average salaries of similarly educated full-time, full-year workers,” the report said.

“Depending on the level of education taught, teachers’ salaries are between 55 percent and 59 percent of the average salaries of similarly educated workers in the United States,” it said.

“For lower secondary teachers, the figure is 58 percent, the second lowest among all OECD countries with available data, after the Czech Republic.”

The wave of unrest among US teachers began in West Virginia in late February when public schoolteachers went on strike for nine days.

They eventually earned a five percent pay raise.

Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky walked off the job on Monday and teachers in Arizona are also threatening to go on strike.

According to the National Education Association (NEA), the largest US teachers’ union, the average US public schoolteacher salary for 2015-16 was $58,353. The median US individual salary stood at $47,000 in 2017 according to the Labor Department.

At $45,622 annually, average teacher pay in West Virginia was 48th of the 50 US states in 2016, according to the NEA.

Teacher salaries in Oklahoma ranked 49th ($45,276) while Kentucky ($52,134) came in at 26th and Arizona ($47,218) at 43rd.

The highest average teacher salaries were in New York ($79,152) and California ($77,179). The lowest were in Mississippi ($42,744) and South Dakota ($42,025).

According to the NEA, the average teacher salary has increased 15.2 percent over the past decade in the United States.

But adjusting for inflation, it has decreased by $1,823 or 3.0 percent.

There were 3.13 million teachers in the United States in 2015-16, according to the NEA.