A new WalletHub study says Utah is the second best state for teachers nationwide, giving the Beehive State high marks for “opportunity” and “work environment” for educators.
New York state ranked No. 1. After Utah, Virginia, Florida and Washington rounded out the top five states.
Overall, Utah ranked second for opportunity and competition and 12th for academic and work environment. However, the study ranked Beehive State 51st for pupil teacher ratio and 50th for public school spending per student.
The survey compared 50 states and the District of Columbia on 24 indicators of teacher friendliness, from income growth potential to whether the state has a digital learning plan.
“Teaching can be a profoundly rewarding career, considering the critical role educators play in shaping young minds. Unfortunately, many teachers find themselves overworked and underpaid,” the study states.
It also notes that education jobs are among the lowest-paying occupations that require a bachelor’s degree.
One factor that likely contributed to Utah’s ranking was a recent increase in average starting salary for teachers. Median starting salaries for public school teachers in Utah school districts increased 20.5% over the past five years, according to data compiled by the Utah Education Association.
Utah’s median beginning salary for the current school year is $48,833. Starting pay is highest in the Park City School District at $56,325, followed by the Tooele School District at $56,000, according to UEA’s data.
The WalletHub metric on starting pay was adjusted for cost of living.
Jay Blain, UEA’s policy and research director, said issues of compensation, benefits and work environment are complex.
“It does deserve a deeper dive,” he said of the study.
Scott Jones, deputy state superintendent of support operations, attributes the increase in average teacher salary “to legislative increases in funding and specifically — but not entirely — to the percentage increases to the value of the weighted pupil unit,” which is Utah’s building block of education funding.
“The Legislature has been very supportive of educators,” Jones said.