Fair and competitive pay is critical to a strong teaching workforce, but NH lags behind neighboring states, Reaching Higher NH tells lawmakers

Members of the Committee to Study New Hampshire Teacher Shortages and Recruitment Incentives listen to a presentation by Reaching Higher NH in September. Photo by Kayla Provencher.

Fair and competitive teacher compensation is a critical part of ensuring that schools can attract and retain qualified and well-prepared teachers, Reaching Higher NH Policy Director Christina Pretorius told the Committee to Study New Hampshire Teacher Shortages and Recruitment Incentives at its meeting on September 21, 2022.

“Effective, well-qualified teachers are really one of the most important resources that schools have,” Pretorius said. “Fair, competitive compensation is really a critical piece in ensuring we have a strong and vigorous workforce.” 

RHNH presented the Committee with research related to teacher salaries in New Hampshire and in New England, and underscored the importance of ensuring that schools throughout the state can hire and retain qualified teachers regardless of their location or wealth. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. New Hampshire teacher salaries are lower than nearly every other state in New England. According to 2020-2021 data, the average teacher salary in New Hampshire was $61,849 — that’s about $2,500 less than the national average, and $24K less than neighboring Massachusetts.
  2. Teacher salaries vary widely from district to district. For teachers with a bachelor’s degree, it would take 18 years of working in the lowest paying district to reach the entry level pay of a teacher in the highest paying district. For teachers with a master’s degree, it would take 28 years.  
  3. Districts with more property wealth and fewer students navigating poverty pay teachers more, creating significant hiring challenges for some districts. The state’s inequitable school funding formula contributes to these disparities. 
  4. The “teacher pay penalty” has grown substantially since 1996. Nationally, teachers make about 24% less than their non-teaching peers with college degrees. In New Hampshire, they make about 19% less.

RHNH also presented the Committee with a snapshot of what other states are doing to attract and retain teachers: Maine, for example, recently changed its laws to increase the minimum teacher salary to $40,000 per year. Other states are using federal COVID relief funds through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to retain teachers and strengthen the educator pipeline. 

Watch a recording of the Committee to Study New Hampshire Teacher Shortages and Recruitment Incentives here: https://youtu.be/iorrFAHdPZY

New Hampshire teachers make less than the national average

The average teacher salary in New Hampshire was $61,489 in 2020-2021, about $2,500 less than the national average. Regionally, New Hampshire’s average teacher salary is behind Massachusetts ($86K), Connecticut ($79K), Rhode Island ($75K), and Vermont ($62K). NH ranks above Maine ($57K). 

New Hampshire’s average starting teacher salary is $39,737, which is about $3,000 less than the national average. Regionally, this is lower than all states but Maine — which recently passed a bill mandating a $40K minimum salary for all teachers statewide, starting in 2022-2023. 

New Hampshire teacher salaries vary widely throughout the state 

RHNH’s analysis found that there is wide variation in teacher pay throughout the state: School districts with more property wealth and fewer students navigating poverty tend to pay their teachers more than other districts. The differences are stark: First-year teachers with a bachelor’s degree who work in the highest paying district earn 58.5% more than their counterparts in the lowest paying district. The discrepancy persists throughout the teacher’s career, too: In those same districts, a teacher on “step 18” (typically a teacher with 18 years of experience) in the lowest paying district makes about as much as a first-year teacher in the highest paying district. 

Because the state pays only a fraction of the actual cost of education, schools rely on their local property taxes to make up the difference. But with wide variations in property wealth, there are huge inequities in the ability of towns to raise the funds necessary to pay a fair and competitive wage for their teachers. School districts with less property wealth have a more difficult time hiring well-prepared and qualified teachers — and getting them to stay. 

Lawmakers consider rehiring retired teachers to fill the gap

Lawmakers on the Committee began exploring the possibility of allowing retired teachers to return to the classroom part-time without losing their retirement benefits. The Concord Monitor reported on the NH Retirement System’s presentation during the September 21 meeting:

“The legislative Committee to Study New Hampshire Teacher Shortages and Recruitment began looking at retirement system information this week. The committee is tasked with examining potential solutions to teacher staffing shortages, including the student population currently enrolled in teacher prep programs and the state’s retired teacher population.

‘We’d like to understand better the capability of retired teachers, educators, to come back into the profession to help districts fill the vacancies that currently exist,” said state Sen. Jay Kahn, the committee chair. “There are examples of educators who would like to do that, and in fact are doing that out of state. What kind of limitations currently exist to their coming back into the profession?’”

Next Steps

Over the next few weeks, the Committee is expected to invite representatives from New Hampshire’s college and university systems to talk about enrollment in educator preparation programs. They’re also scheduled to hear from superintendents on how districts are attracting and retaining teachers this year. 

Additionally, RHNH has requested data from the NH Department of Education to analyze teacher certifications and shortages to help the Committee better understand where, and what, shortages are affecting schools the most. 

“We want to know, where are our staffing shortages so that we can tease out, ‘hey, these might be the reasons why,’ ” Pretorius told the Committee. 

About the Committee

The Committee to Study New Hampshire Teacher Shortages and Recruitment Incentives was created during the 2022 legislative session in response to reports that schools around the state were struggling to fill teacher and support staff positions. The group is tasked with examining the current state of the educator workforce, as well as identifying strategies for recruiting and retaining teachers of color and educators to work in rural and underserved school districts.

The Committee’s next meeting will be on October 4 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. 

Reports provided by Reaching Higher to the Committee are linked below. Not that these are drafts. Reaching Higher’s public school teacher salary brief and the findings from our statewide educator survey will be published soon. Join the New Hampshire Education Network and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.