Oklahoma ranks as No. 30 in the nation in teacher pay – not No. 48 – when that pay is adjusted for the cost of living.
The teachers’ union, the liberal media and some politicians have cited surveys that showed Oklahoma at No. 48 or 49. But those figures don’t take into account the varying cost of living in the 50 states.
The 1889 Institute, an Oklahoma state policy think tank, recently published Oklahoma’s Teacher Pay: 30th, Not 48th. The publication shows rankings of the states based on average teacher pay in each state in 2016, adjusted for cost of living as well as beginning teacher salaries (using data from 2013).
“Rankings of states’ raw income and salary levels in any profession fail to take account of local circumstances, especially the cost of living,” said the publication’s author, economist Byron Schlomach, director of the 1889 Institute. “It is constantly pointed out, accurately, that Oklahoma’s average teacher pay ranks 48th highest, or third lowest, among the states,” said Schlomach. “However, when each state’s salaries are adjusted for cost of living, Oklahoma ranks 30th, higher than Oregon, which ranks 12th in a raw comparison.”
Schlomach also points out that a $5,000 pay raise would see Oklahoma ranked 15th in teacher pay after cost of living is taken into account. Oklahoma would rank above every neighboring state except Texas. The same would be true with a $4,000 pay raise where Oklahoma would rank 17th on a cost of living basis.
A $2,100 pay raise would see Oklahoma with a 24th teacher pay ranking, adjusted for cost of living. Such a raise would see the average Oklahoma teacher’s purchasing power higher than that of teachers in California, Massachusetts and Maryland, as well as Missouri.
“Failure to take cost of living into account when comparing Oklahoma’s teacher pay, or any profession’s pay in Oklahoma, to the rest of the nation is error by omission. A 48th ranking is to be expected,” said Schlomach. “Oklahoma’s 49th ranking in cost of living is actually well-known,” he said.
The 1889 Institute is an Oklahoma think tank committed to independent, principled state policy fostering limited and responsible government, free enterprise and a robust civil society.
Teacher Pay Chart
Beginning Salary Adjusted for 2016 cost of living