Back to school means that the stress of handling kids all day has shifted from harried parents to an army of teachers. Some of those teachers have an easier transition than others, thanks to high salaries, small classes and high-achieving students.
There’s no better state in which to be a teacher than Connecticut. “There has been an assumption that teachers are professionals, and that respect for the profession has meant that it is easier to recruit new teachers,” said Suzanne Wilson, an education expert at the University of Connecticut.
The Nutmeg State pays its public school teachers an average base salary of $67,040, higher than any other state except New York, New Jersey and California, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. It also has some of the best-educated teachers in the country, having invested in teacher training since the 1980s. More than 80 percent of Connecticut teachers have a master’s degree, a specialist degree or a doctorate. Only New York has a higher share of teachers with advanced degrees.
Connecticut, meanwhile, is much better than its higher-paying neighbors at keeping class sizes small. The state has one teacher for every 22 middle school and high school students, one of the lowest ratios in the country. By contrast, New York has one teacher per 25 secondary students.
Connecticut’s relatively generous salaries and small classes translate into higher spending per student than in most states. It spent $18,512 per public school student in the 2012-2013 school year, according to the National Education Association. The national average was just over $12,000 per student.
Connecticut can afford to spend that much as one of the wealthier states in the country. Ben Zimmer, executive director of the Connecticut Policy Institute, said his state has a higher-than-average percentage of residents with advanced degrees and higher-than-average earnings.
Then again, because the cost of living is so high in some parts of the state, higher salaries for teachers are necessary. A teacher’s starting salary in Connecticut doesn’t have as much buying power as, say, a lower starting salary in a cheaper state such as West Virginia or Mississippi.
Teachers in other states, though, just don’t have it as good as their Connecticut counterparts. The average base salary for public school teachers in Oklahoma is just$39,490. Only 29 percent of teachers in South Dakota have advanced degrees. And in Nevada, there is one teacher for every 34.5 secondary school students.
Connecticut seems to be getting good returns on its investment. Its students perform better than the national average. The National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that Connecticut students are more likely to be at or above proficient levels in math and reading in both fourth and eighth grade.
So, as other states strive to improve their schools, they should look to Connecticut at the head of the class.