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For too many teachers, salaries aren't enough to pay the rent

June 7, 2019
Analysis by USA Today shows that in most metropolitan areas, starting teachers can't afford the median rent.

New teachers can't afford the median rent almost anywhere in the United States, an analysis by USA Today shows.

Teachers in some regions are able to make ends meet, but in other areas, mid-career teachers can't afford to live on their salaries without picking up side jobs or commuting long distances. Some of those places are only affordable for the very highest-paid teachers.

And then there are places that no teacher can afford, no matter how much they earn. Like Miami.

"A lot of people who have a passion for education cannot make it as a career," says Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the union for teachers in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

"We have teachers as Uber drivers, Lyft drivers. They certainly love teaching, but they can't pay their bills with love."

USA Today looked at teachers' salaries in the lowest, middle and highest pay brackets in almost all the nation's metropolitan areas. Areas were deemed affordable if teachers would have to spend no more than 30% of their salaries — after accounting for federal taxes — to afford the local median rent or mortgage.

Compounding teachers' financial troubles are other costs the analysis could not include, such as student debt, health insurance contributions and child-care costs.

Beginning teachers, or those in the bottom 10% of the pay scale, can afford to rent a median-priced unit in just 13 of the 291 metro areas analyzed.

The average salary of a U.S. teacher was $58,950 in 2016-'17. When adjusted for inflation, that's slightly less than what the average teacher earned almost two decades ago. Growing unrest over low pay sparked teacher walkouts last year in states such as Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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