Nebraska and Iowa are among a dozen states that didn’t see public school teacher salaries slip backward, in real dollars, over the past decade.
That’s according to a report from the nation’s largest teachers union.
The National Education Association released its annual report — Rankings of the States 2018 and Estimates of School Statistics 2019 — Monday comparing education spending in the states.
The average annual salary in Nebraska rose 1%, when adjusted for inflation, from 2009-10 to 2018-19, the NEA estimates.
Iowa saw a 0.4% rise during the decade.
Thirty-eight states saw their average teacher salary decline.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said the decline explains the drop in applicants to teacher prep programs and the recent teacher walkouts in several states including West Virginia, Oklahoma and North Carolina.
“You can see that our teacher pay over the last decade has continued to erode, and that is expanding the large pay gap between similarly educated and experienced professionals,” she said.
Teachers earned 21.4% less than similarly situated professionals in 2018 according to the Economic Policy Institute, she said.
The same report found that teachers tend to get better benefits, which offset some of that disparity.
Colleges of education have seen a precipitous drop in people applying, she said.
Enrollment in Nebraska teachers colleges declined by more than 50% between 2008-09 and 2016-17, according to the Nebraska Department of Education.
The number of students completing the programs remained relatively steady over that time, though it dipped in 2016-17 to its lowest in nine years.
“Even those very dedicated new teachers, who said, ‘This is where I want to make my career,’ find out very quickly that they have to have two or three jobs to do the world’s most important work, teaching the next generation,” she said. “And a whole lot of those folks leave.”
She said the nation doesn’t have a teacher shortage. There are plenty of certified teachers who couldn’t afford to stay in the profession, she said.
Nebraska rose in the NEA state salary rankings. But that news was met with caution from the president of Nebraska’s teachers union.
The NEA report says the state’s average salary of $54,213 in 2017-18 ranked 25th, up from 29th a year earlier.
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Jenni Benson, president of the Nebraska State Education Association, said the improved ranking is good, because the state must invest in competitive salaries to recruit and retain good teachers.
“Sadly, our improvement is due in part to salary reductions in other states,” Benson said.
The 25th ranking puts Nebraska “right in the middle of the pack,” but the state’s beginning salaries lag, she said.
The salary for a beginning Nebraska teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $34,465, ranking 43rd, she said.
Nebraska ranked No. 1 in one category. The state had the nation’s largest one-year percentage increase in average salary for instructional staff from 2016-17 to 2017-18.
The average salary for that group of employees increased 3.65% to $54,377.
Instructional staff, according to NEA, includes not just teachers but all teaching-related positions. It includes consultants or supervisors of instruction, principals, teachers, guidance personnel, librarians, psychological personnel, and other instructional staff.
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Jennifer Bailey is a kindergarten teacher at Indian Hill Elementary, with a bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and 17 years with OPS. “Jennifer engages and inspires her students to love learning. I see often how Jennifer has made a difference in the lives of her students by the number of former students who stop by to visit her, many of whom have gone on to middle school, high school and beyond,” a colleague said.
Kelli Baker is a first grade teacher at Standing Bear Elementary, with a bachelor’s from UNO and 17 years with OPS. "Mrs. Baker has been more than we could have ever dreamed as a teacher for our first grader. She is so helpful, patient, kind and understanding. Our son has a love for school and I think Mrs. Baker is a big part of that because he feels loved and supported by her,” a parent wrote.
Leslie Baxter is a special education teacher at Chandler View Elementary. She has a bachelor’s from Buena Vista University and master’s from the University of Northern Iowa, and 31 years with OPS. “Mrs. Baxter was able to raise my daughter’s reading and math scores, and her social skills, which led to my daughter being mainstreamed in school. She taught me many things also. We always worked as a team, always sharing new ideas and information,” a parent wrote.
Page Dalton is a social studies teacher at Burke High School, with a bachelor’s from Concordia University and master’s from California State University and College of Saint Mary, and six years with OPS. “She is one of the most authentic, caring, and down-to-earth teachers you will ever meet. She genuinely wants to see her students succeed, and I could ask nothing more of a teacher,” a student wrote.
Jay Daugherty is a social studies teacher at Buffett Middle School, with a bachelor’s from Iowa State University and a master’s from Nebraska Wesleyan University and 17 years with OPS. “He not only instilled in my children an interest in learning but helped them develop a passion for learning about other cultures and people. Mr. Daugherty helped them learn that the world is a bigger place than Omaha,” a parent said.
Maggie Douglas is a fifth grade teacher at Wilson Focus School. Two bachelor’s from Creighton University, a master’s from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a master’s from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. and six years with OPS. “She is both a fun and challenging teacher. She is excellent at developing a relationship with each student, so they understand she has high expectations for their learning. Because of this, you won’t want to let her down,” a parent wrote.
David Groth is a vocal music teacher at Burke High School, with a bachelor’s from Northwest Missouri State University and four years with OPS. “Mr. Groth is a teacher who truly cares. He is a motivational speaker, therapist, and excellent teacher all in one. His positive attitude makes his classroom one that students want to be in. He teaches students to be confident, kind to others and to make a difference in the world,” a student wrote.
Lacie Hansen is a language arts teacher at Norris Middle School. Has a bachelor’s from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and master’s from Peru State College and 12 years with OPS. “Ms. Hansen has the rare ability to know how to work with individual students and make them feel safe, supported, and confident in her classroom. She uses a variety of engagement strategies and works diligently to build relationships with her students,” a colleague wrote.
Jessica Korth is a math teacher at Bryan Middle School. She has a bachelor’s from Wayne State College and master’s from UNL and 20 years with OPS. “She is truly outstanding in everything she does for her colleagues, students and school. She not only goes above and beyond during school hours, but she dedicates her time once school is done. She is kind, giving, considerate, and just the best colleague to have,” a colleague wrote.
Keith Kramer is an information technology and robotics teacher at Marrs Middle School. He has a bachelor’s from Creighton University and master’s from Concordia University and 26 years with OPS. “Mr. Kramer is an amazing teacher, role model and human being. He really knows how to relate to the kids in his class, which keeps them involved and learning. He puts in countless hours after school and on the weekends working with his students,” a parent said.
Vanessa Kruse is a first grade teacher at Picotte Elementary. She has a bachelor’s from Creighton University and master’s from UNO, with 13 years with OPS. “I am impressed by her kindness, patience, and fun and creative teaching methods. She is always wearing a huge smile, she is so positive and upbeat, and it is obvious how much she cares about her students,” a parent said.
Michelle Meyer is an English as a second language teacher at Belle Ryan Elementary. She has a bachelor’s from Northwest Missouri State University and master’s from Doane University and 17 years with OPS. “Michelle is one of the most passionate educators I have had the pleasure of working with. Michelle is an advocate for both her students and their families. She has impacted countless students both educationally and with social-emotional learning,” a colleague wrote.
Desseraye Scott is a first grade teacher at Crestridge Elementary. She has a bachelor’s from UNL and 15 years with OPS. “Mrs. Scott fostered a love for learning in my daughter. She offered a level of rigor that stretched our daughter’s academic growth, as well as her imagination and passion for discovery and inquiry. She gave her the attention she desired yet instilled an independence that allowed her to flourish,” a parent wrote.
Kimberly Wichert is a science teacher at Buffett Middle School. She has a bachelor’s from the University of Northern Iowa and 27 years with OPS. “She goes above and beyond to help us understand everything. She always takes our mistakes and turns them into lessons that we can learn and grow from. Even if we feel like giving up, she encourages us to work harder,” a student wrote.
Donna Wilcox is a language arts teacher at Marrs Middle School. She has a bachelor’s and master’s from UNO and 22 years with OPS. “I have watched her work her magic on kids, and I love watching her teach. She teaches with a sense of humor and with excitement. Any time I walk into her classroom I see students fully engaged, and she is up walking around and making sure everyone understands,” a colleague wrote.