Study: Milwaukee Teachers Have Highest Salary Amongst Major Metro Areas

September 3, 2014

For Immediate Release
Contact: Nick Novak, 608-237-7290

[Madison, Wisc…] Milwaukee teachers beat out their counterparts in cities like New York and Los Angeles for highest median pay according to a new study published by the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy and the National Center for Policy Analysis.

The study compares elementary teacher pay values – adjusted for cost of living – among 60 metropolitan areas across the country. Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Grand Rapids, Michigan and Columbus, Ohio are at the top. Honolulu, Hawaii; New York, New York and San Francisco, California rank the lowest in salary.

“For those considering moving to another area for higher teacher pay, the grass is not always greener,” said NCPA Senior Fellow, and author of the study, Pamela Villarreal. “An increase in salary could be eaten up by higher overall living costs.”

With a median salary of $74,540, Milwaukee’s elementary teachers receive the highest salaries of the major metropolitan areas examined. When adjusted for cost of living, the median salary drops slightly to $73,078, but still ranks at the top. But other high median salaries are not that impressive when adjusted for the area cost of living. For instance:

  • New York City (Manhattan borough), ranks third highest with a median annual salary of $73,000, but falls to $33,152 when adjusted for the cost of living, placing it near the bottom of the pay scale nationwide.
  • San Francisco’s median salary of $66,350 sounds attractive until the area’s high cost of living is factored in, reducing it to $41,058.
  • In Honolulu, the median salary of $54,640 is slightly above the national median, but falls to the very bottom of the 60-city sample when adjusted for the cost of living to $32,312.

Teachers in some cities enjoy much better circumstances. Indeed, in nine metropolitan areas the cost of living adjustment takes teacher’s salaries from at or below the national median of $53,950 to well above it.

  • The median salary in Salt Lake City, Utah, is $52,890, but increases to $55,968 when adjusted for the cost of living.
  • The median salary in St. Louis, Missouri, is $53,580, but climbs to $56,819 when adjusted for the cost of living.
  • The median salary in Indianapolis, Indiana — $51,790 — increases to $56,293 when adjusted for the cost of living — a difference of $4,500.

The study also examines National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores in 19 metro areas to determine if students performed at a higher level when teachers were paid more.

“As with any government program, it is important for taxpayers to know the value they receive for every tax dollar spent. Wisconsin taxpayers pay elementary teachers in Milwaukee one of the highest salaries in the country, but academic performance is one of the lowest,” said MacIver Institute President Brett Healy. “We face many challenges in Milwaukee. This report clearly demonstrates we cannot blame low teacher pay for poor academic results. Everyone involved – our children, parents, teachers and administrators – must do better.”

The full report is available by clicking here.