Kentucky’s educators drop from 40th to 41st in national average teacher salary, say new KEA reports

By McKenna Horsley
Kentucky Lantern

New reports highlighted by the Kentucky Education Association show that Kentucky educators’ salaries are losing ground to those in other states.

According to the annual reports released by the National Education Association looking at 2022-23 numbers, Kentucky dropped from 40th to 41st nationally in average teacher salary at $56,296 compared with the national average of $69,544.

KEA President Eddie Campbell (Photo by Jack Brammer/NKyTribune)

Kentucky also dropped in starting teacher salary from 44th to 45th, with an average starting salary of $39,204. Nationally, average starting pay for teachers was $44,530 Kentucky’s pay for education support professionals in K-12 schools increased in the rankings one spot, from 48th to 47th, with an average earning of $27,053. ESPs include bus drivers, janitors, cafeteria workers, and more.

Gov. Andy Beshear had called on the legislature to fund an 11% raise for public school employees in the new state budget.

The Republican-controlled legislature rejected Beshear’s plan for a mandated pay raise. Republican lawmakers said salary changes should instead flow through Kentucky’s Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) formula and be determined by local school boards and superintendents.

In a statement about the salary rankings, KEA President Eddie Campbell said Kentucky educators “are not competitively compensated for educating our children, and KEA is deeply concerned about the general assembly’s lack of investment in Kentucky educators’ pay.” Campbell added that Kentucky school districts face a workforce shortage “nearly every day of the school year.”

Robbie Fletcher (Photo by McKenna Horsley/Kentucky Lantern)

“It is a true shame that the legislature chose to squander this once in a generation opportunity to raise educator pay and move SEEK funding to meet the needs of a 21st century education,” Campbell said. “It’s short-sighted to not directly and meaningfully address educator pay at levels that would make Kentucky the envy of our neighboring—and competitor—states. Instead, surrounding states are devoting more and more resources to recruit and retain quality educators. It is disappointing that our elected representatives didn’t take the same opportunity.”

KEA is calling on local school boards in Kentucky to use the increased dollars from the SEEK formula to “invest in our public school staff by meaningfully and permanently raising salaries and wages beginning next school year, or Kentucky will continue to fall behind.”

Through the SEEK formula, Kentucky distributes state dollars to local school districts. Factors include transportation costs and number of special needs students as reported by districts.
Overall, the final budget passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly at the end of the 2024 session included an increase in the SEEK per-pupil base of 3% to $4,326 in the next fiscal year and then a 6% increase in fiscal year 2025-26, to $4,586.

According to the NEA data, Kentucky ranked 33rd in the nation on its per student spending, with an average of $13,599.

NKyTribune file photo)

Robbie Fletcher, who will become Kentucky’s next education commissioner in July, told reporters that he would stop advocating for raises for teachers if “we ever get to the point where we’re the top 10 in the nation.”

Fletcher also said, “I’m very thankful for the investment that our legislators made already in our education system because it is an excellent education budget.”

Fletcher said the SEEK formula should be reexamined — mainly the funding “discrepancy between property rich districts versus property poor districts.” He added that increasing the base amount of SEEK funding would “be beneficial for all schools.”

“If you have a high property value, you don’t get as much money per student,” Fletcher said. “Whereas, you have a lower property value, you get a higher amount per student.”

Fletcher added that the General Assembly did invest more money into Tier 1 of the SEEK formula. The threshold increased from 15% to 17.5%. That tier allows the state to give more funding to districts with less property wealth.

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