Teachers in Seattle began a strike in early September over a dispute with the city’s school district about what they should earn.
So what do teachers make, how does it compare with other white-collar professions, and should they get a raise?
Here’s a quick look at the numbers.
-4.5% — This figure is the reason for the strike. It represents the decline in teacher salaries in Washington between 1999 and 2012. Teachers in the Seattle area have gone more than five years without a cost-of-living raise at a time when a surge in the area’s tech industry has sent housing prices soaring. According to Zillow, at the start of 2013, the median sale price per square foot of a Seattle house was $266. In July 2015, it was $376. For context, the average starting salary at Microsoft, the tech giant in town, is above $90,000. Many of the Microsoft employees who live in Seattle have school-aged children enrolled in the city’s schools, but teachers say they can’t afford to live where they teach anymore.
$56,000 — That’s what public-school teachers earn, on average, in the United States. Teacher pay varies widely, from more than $70,000 in states like California and Massachusetts to the high $30,000s in South Dakota.
$53,500 — This is the average teacher pay in Washington state, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The average mid-career teacher salary in the Seattle area, where the strike is happening, is closer to $60,000, but the cost of living is also higher. A new teacher in Seattle is making a salary in the mid-$40,000 range. (The Seattle Times has an interactive wage comparison tool that’s very helpful.) According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living-wage calculator, that’s enough to support a single person, but it’s not sufficient to support a family.