By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
While teachers across the country might be underpaid when compared to other professions, a report from the Economic Policy Institute showed that Wyoming’s teachers are the least underpaid.
A statistic from the EPI’s September 2020 report that shows public school teachers make about 20% less than college graduates who are not teachers has been making the rounds on social media lately.
However, the report also showed that Wyoming’s teachers are paid better than most, with their salaries falling below those of non-teachers by about 2%, a fact that was noted by many social media users.
The Wyoming Department of Education was grateful that people took notice of the better pay for teachers in the state.
“It is wonderful to see Wyoming recognized for placing an emphasis on funding teachers,” Wyoming Department of Education spokeswoman Linda Finnerty told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “As we continue to explore the future of education funding in Wyoming, Superintendent Balow will continue to advocate for prioritizing our dollars on teachers and their classrooms.”
Some states, such as Arizona and Virginia, pay their teachers more than 30% less than what other college graduates are earning.
Rhode Island and New Jersey followed behind in Wyoming in paying their teachers the best.
Funding for the state’s teachers and schools became an issue this year, however, with news that Wyoming’s K-12 Education School Foundation Program is facing a $250 million annual structural deficit and the School Capital Construction Account (SCCA) faces a $50 million annual shortfall.
Most of the money for Wyoming’s schools comes from property taxes and a disproportionate amount of those taxes have been paid in the past by the state’s mineral industry. Legislators this year tried unsuccessfully to bridge the gap between income and expenses in the state’s schools but were unable to do so, leaving the shortfall to be covered by a $331 million transfer from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund.”
State Reps. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, Jerry Paxton, R-Encampment, Steve Harshman, R-Casper, and Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, in an opinion piece published by Cowboy State Daily, noted the state must come up with solution to the shortfalls in education funding.
“Wyoming should continue to look for efficiencies in funding K-12 education,” the representatives said. “It is imperative that Wyoming continue to examine its K-12 educational program to remain relevant in an ever-changing world.”