Arizona teachers have the lowest wages in the nation, report finds




Supporters of #RedforEd at a protest hosted by the Arizona Education Association at the Arizona State Capitol on April 30, 2018. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

A new report shows that the nearly 53,000 teachers in Arizona have the lowest wages in the nation on average.

The analysis of federal employment and wage data by HireAHelper, a California-based company that connects professional movers with clients, found that Arizona ranked 50th in median annual earnings for teachers after adjusting for cost of living. Arizona teachers earned only $47,606 — more than $2,100 less than the adjusted pay for educators in Oklahoma.

And Arizona’s two largest metropolitan areas, Phoenix and Tucson, ranked 48th and 50th, respectively, among large cities. The median pay in the Phoenix area is $47,851, while Tucson teachers earn just $44,153.

Among small metro areas, Arizona had the four worst salaries among the 187 cities evaluated: Sierra Vista was the worst, with $43,643 in media pay. Yuma ranked No. 186 at $44,689. Teachers in Flagstaff earn more than $2,000 more than in Yuma, but the city’s $46,956 salary is still third-worst among small cities — and just $1 less than the pay in Lake Havasu City.

If all cities are considered, Arizona has six of the eight worst average salaries, including the three worst. 

Three years ago, Arizona teachers protested low wages. After some 100,000 teachers and public school employees staged a “walk-in” demonstration to decry Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed 1% salary increase, Ducey changed course and pledged a 20% increase by 2020. Educators said the plan didn’t do enough, and walked out of classrooms in late April. A May 2018 march on the Capitol drew more than 50,000 teachers, school employees and public school advocates, shutting down school for roughly 85,000 Arizona students

A 2019 study from the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank based in Washington, D.C., found that public school teachers in every state are paid less than their similarly educated peers. Arizona teachers faced the worst salary penalty: 32.6 percent.

The researchers for HireAHelper calculated and ranked the locations based on cost-of-living adjusted median annual earnings for teachers. They evaluated teachers in both public and private elementary, middle and secondary schools teachers. Only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 residents were included in the study.

Jim Small
Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.