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Econ Focus

Third Quarter 2022

District Digest

Setting Teacher Salaries

Main Story

Resolving the Gap in Teacher Supply

States and school districts are using a variety of policies – including financial incentives – to try to combat a teacher shortage.

To the best of their ability, school districts set salary and benefit schedules to be competitive with outside employment opportunities. To compete in a strong job market, schools may also issue signing bonuses to attract new teachers and appreciation bonuses to retain existing teachers. Yet public schools face limitations when competing; they must adhere to budgets determined by state and local resources, which limit their ability to use financial incentives to attract and retain qualified teachers.

In most states throughout the Fifth District, teacher salary schedules vary across school districts. The two exceptions are the District of Columbia and North Carolina. The District of Columbia has a single public school district and thus needs only one salary schedule. North Carolina sets teacher salary schedules at the state level but permits individual school districts to provide local supplements.

For a new teacher with a bachelor's degree, starting salaries tend to be highest in the Washington, D.C., metro area, several urban districts in Maryland, and in rural Nelson County, Va. (Nelson County made a policy decision to front-load its salary schedule and decrease the value of step increases over the course of a teacher's career.) School districts with relatively low starting salaries tend to be located in rural areas in West Virginia and South Carolina. (See map below.)

Color coded map showing the starting salary of teachers with a bachelors in the fifth district

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