Another study, another mediocre ranking for the Yellowhammer State.
Conducted by the personal finance website WalletHub, the in-depth analysis found that teachers across the U.S. are shortchanged every year — their salaries consistently fail to keep up with inflation — all the while the law demands they produce better students. The same is true for Alabama. While the study found Alabama’s average teacher starting salary to be $39,346, the 5th best in the country, teacher income growth potential in the state ranks 50th — essentially, Yellowhammer teacher salaries don’t progress with their careers.
That statistic doesn’t bode well for improving education across the state. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly one-fifth of all new public school teachers leave their positions before the end of their first year and almost half don’t last more than five years. Without good teachers who are happy to stay in their jobs, the quality of Alabama education is bound to suffer.
But Yellowhammer families shouldn’t be too discouraged, there’s hope yet for the state. Earlier this year, the Alabama Legislature passed a $6 billion Education Fund budget that includes a $13 million increase for textbooks and more than $10 million for the Alabama’s nationally acclaimed Pre-K program. Gov. Robert Bentley also signed a law authorizing Alabama’s first charter schools, allowing for the creation of public schools with the ability to develop curriculum and select teachers bound by contracts instead of regulations set by the state. Before this, Alabama was one of only eight states without charter schools, according to the Alabama Coalition for Public Charter Schools.
When asked about the latest ranking, Alabama’s State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Tommy Bice told Alabama Today, “Our primary goal is making sure the students of Alabama receive a quality education that adequately prepares them for life after high school, be it college or the workforce. Our teachers are essential in making that happen. We do not focus on rankings and comparisons. Rather we do all that we can to support our teachers, provide research-based professional growth opportunities, provide comprehensive induction and mentoring programs, and invest in efforts to recruit and retain great educators.”
“We are faced with unprecedented budgetary struggles and challenging expectations – yet our teachers come to school every day with steadfast dedication and a resolve to make a difference in the lives of our students,” Bice continued. “Making sure our teachers are well-prepared, resourced, supported and effective so they can make sure our students graduate from school prepared for life is our goal. There are an assortment of surveys and rankings from numerous sources that judge and categorize schools and teachers with a wide variety of criteria and methodologies. Our intention is to stay committed to being the best we can be for Alabama students as we meet the goals of Alabama’s plan of continuous improvement – PLAN 2020.”
The following are the statistics that were released regarding being a teacher in Alabama and how it ranks with the rest of the United States. (1=Best; 25=Average)
- Average starting salary for teachers: 5th
- Median annual salary for teachers: 23rd
- Teachers’ income growth potential: 50th
- Projected number of teachers per student by 2022: 15th
- Unemployment rate: 40th
- 10-year change in teacher salaries: 10th
- WalletHub “School Systems” ranking: 39th
- Pupil-to-teacher ratio: 22nd
- Safest schools: 13th
- WalletHub “Underprivileged Children” Ranking: 42nd
- Public school spending per student: 44th
As for how neighboring states fared, Alabama was in good company — Mississippi ranked 48th, Georgia 37th, Tennessee 33rd, and Florida 27th.