School Finance Questions: How have Kansas teacher salaries compared to inflation?

School Finance Questions: How have Kansas teacher salaries compared to inflation?

As the Kansas Legislature considers its response to the Gannon school finance decision, KASB is responding to questions about school funding. Today, how have Kansas teacher salaries compared to inflation?

As the chart above shows, following increased state education funding, the average Kansas teacher salary has increased more than inflation for the each of the past two years – the first time that has happened since 2007. However, the average salary remains more than $3,000 lower than 2009 when adjusted for inflation.

Why does it matter? Kansas school districts compete with other states and other employers for teachers and other school staff. When salaries fail to keep up with living costs, educators are more likely to leave the state or profession for better-paying jobs. School districts report far fewer quality applications for jobs in their districts compared to the past, and worry that will make it harder to meet rising goals for student success.

How are salaries connected to school funding? About 65 percent of all school funding and 75 percent of operating funds go to salaries. As school funding fell behind inflation from 2009 to 2017, so did salaries. When state funding increased in 2018 and 2019, teacher salaries rose as well.

That is why continuing to fund the remaining four years of the 2018 school finance plan – and adding an inflation factor requested by the Kansas Supreme Court – is important. It will allow school districts to continue to increase salaries to make up for last value since 2009.

The table below shows actual average teacher salaries since 2004. Without accounting for inflation, average Kansas teacher salaries have increased every year.  But when adjusted for inflation, salaries actually lost value between 2009 and 2017. Adjusting for inflation means comparing the “purchasing power” of dollars in previous years. For example, in 2004 the average Kansas teacher salary was $42,558. But because of inflation, the cost of everything from food to cars to rent to medical care has increased. That means $42,558 in 2004 could have purchased the same amount “consumer goods” as $57,743 in 2019.