‘Best and Worst States for Teachers’ study ranks Oklahoma as No. 36th

In a WalletHub.com study titled “2016’s Best and Worst States for Teachers,” Oklahoma ranks No. 36.

In “Job opportunity and competition rank,” Oklahoma is No. 25. In “Academic and Work Environment Rank,” Oklahoma is No. 37. The study reports that Oklahoma is No. 48 in “public spending per student,” ahead of Utah, Arizona and Indiana. However, the five states with the lowest teacher salaries are Arizona, West Virginia, Maine, South Dakota and Hawaii.

According to the study, education jobs are some of the lowest-paying occupations that require a bachelor’s degree, and their salaries consistently fail to keep up with inflation.

Consequently, the job pressures, low pay and lack of mobility force many teachers to quit soon after they start, leading to a perpetual attrition problem in America’s public schools.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about a fifth of all newly minted public-school teachers leave their positions before the end of their first year — nearly half of them never last more than five years. Many teachers, especially novices, transfer to other schools or abandon the profession altogether “as the result of feeling overwhelmed, ineffective, and unsupported,” according to ASCD.

WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 16 key indicators of teacher-friendliness. The data ranges from “median starting salary” to “pupil-teacher ratio” to “school safety.”

  • Wyoming has the highest average starting salary for teachers (adjusted for cost of living), $46,626, which is 1.9 times higher than in Hawaii, the state with the lowest, $24,334.
  • Michigan has the highest median annual salary for teachers (adjusted for cost of living), $70,042, which is two times higher than in Hawaii, the state with the lowest, $34,063.
  • Nevada has the lowest projected number of teachers per 1,000 students by year 2022 (indicating competition), 26.83, which is 3.3 times lower than in North Dakota, the state with the highest, 87.59.
  • Vermont has the lowest pupil-teacher ratio, 10.6, which is 2.3 times lower than in California, the state with the highest, 24.3.

Vermont has the highest public-school spending per student, $25,286, which is 3.4 times higher than in Indiana, the state with the lowest, $7,538.

  • Massachusetts was judged the “best school system,” followed by New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and Wisconsin. The “worst school systems” were District of Columbia, Arizona, Alaska, New Mexico and Louisiana.