5 maps that show the best states for teachers


Students arrive at the first day of school at Bailey’s Upper Elementary in Falls Church. (For The Washington Post)

As teachers across the country start a new school year, lawmakers in South Carolina are brainstorming ways to keep their teachers happy.

The state’s average starting teacher salary is in the bottom half among U.S. states, and every year, it has 4,000 openings for new teachers, but only 2,000 of its college graduates are going into teaching. Members of the state legislature have begun meeting in hopes of coming up with legislation to introduce in January to make the state more appealing for teachers to fill those positions.

The National Education Association’s latest ranking of states shows what South Carolina and other states are up against as they work to attract and retain teachers. The following maps look at five sets of data about teaching across the country.

How much are new teachers paid?

The state with the highest average starting teacher salary is New Jersey, which offers an average of $48,631 a year to new teachers, according to the National Education Association. The lowest is Montana at $27,274 a year.

How big are the classrooms?

The numbers in this map represent the average number of students per teacher. Teachers in Vermont and Nebraska on average have the smallest classrooms, with student-to-teacher ratios of 9.2 and 9.8, respectively. California’s ratio is 24.9 students for every teacher, the highest in the country.

Is enrollment increasing or decreasing?

The numbers in this map represent the percentage increase or decrease in public school enrollment from fall 2011 to fall 2012. Teachers in North Carolina, North Dakota and Utah have the best job security, with public school enrollment going up from fall 2011 to fall 2012. In South Carolina, enrollment slid by 2.1 percent.

How much money is spent on students?

The numbers in this map represent the annual per capita state and local expenditures for K-12 public schools per student. In the 2011-2012 school year, New Jersey, New York and Vermont’s schools had the highest expenditures per capita, with each spending more than $18,000 per student. Utah and Arizona were at the bottom of the list, each with less than $7,000 spent per student.

Are teachers paid more or less than they were 10 years ago?

The numbers in this map represent the change in constant dollars for teacher salaries from the 2002-03 school year to the 2012-13 school year. Wyoming saw the largest increase, at 15.2 percent, while North Carolina saw a 15 percent decrease, the steepest drop.

Reporter for The Washington Post. Formerly of the BuzzFeed Los Angeles bureau.
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