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State Audit Confirms That First Year Teacher Salaries Don't Measure Up

Lee Hale
New data from Utah's State Auditor confirms that teacher pay cannot compete with other first year professions.

Utah’s State Auditor has released new data that compares the salary of first year teachers to their peers in other professions. And it’s no surprise that teacher pay does not measure up.

Everyone knows teacher pay is low in Utah. But John Dougall, the state auditor, says it was important to ground that knowledge with data. Especially since schools statewide are experiencing teacher shortages.


“Well my hope is that policy makers as well as public school administrators will consider this data and begin to factor it in into how they’re recruiting and how they’re compensating for some of these disciplines that they continually claim that’s it difficult to hire for," says Dougall.


According to the study, someone graduating with a math degree is expected to make around $56,000 a year right out of college. Compare that to a math teacher who will make only $36,000.


Despite the fact that the job market is very competitive for math majors, schools don’t pay them more than any other teacher.


“Clearly they’re not recognizing generally deferential pay when it comes to the demand for different degrees for different graduates," says Dougall.


Another high need area is special education. Susan Johnston is a professor of special education at the University of Utah and she says talks about salary with a lot of future teachers.


“If we can’t offer a base salary that equates to those high level skills then it’s pretty difficult for future professionals to make the decision to go into the field," says Johnston.


She hopes this data will lead to salary increases in the very near future. Her fear is that rather than adjust salary, struggling schools will adjust expectations and continue hiring under qualified teachers.  

Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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