Best states for teachers? The list might surprise you



If you listen to the NEA Alaska or Great Alaska Schools, the 49th State is a terrible place to be a teacher, and educators are leaving the profession in droves.

But according to WalletHub, Alaska ranks among within the top 20 states for teachers, in terms of their pay, opportunity and work environment.

WalletHub ranks North Dakota the best place for teaching in the U.S., but Alaska ranks #17, scoring #1 for opportunity and competition, but #45 for academic and work environment.

Alaska comes in right behind New York for having the highest teacher salaries in the nation,  with elementary school teachers earning an average salary of $73,220 and secondary school teachers banking $80,550 per year.

Arizona ranks #51 on the WalletHub list (District of Columbia is included in the rankings).

View the entire list of states and how they rank at this link.

See the methodology for the ranking at this link.

It may be in in the top third for teaching opportunity, but earlier this year, WalletHub ranked Alaska as #42 in the “Best to Worst” school system list, with Massachusetts ranking at #1 and New Mexico ranking at #51.

Tim Parker, president of NEA-Alaska, wrote this month that, “We provide an excellent public education to nearly 140,000 Alaska students in nearly every community in our state.” And he defended the poor outcomes on standardized tests, as Alaska students sink further and further behind, and come in nearly dead last among states on the Nation’s Report Card.

“Educators know that there is much more to students than a single test score. We continually use dozens of different assessments to find out whether students are learning. Unfortunately, some politicians and pundits will use these test scores to score cheap political points and use a broad brush to paint our whole system of public schools as failing. Alaska’s parents and educators know that one test in April doesn’t define our students,” Parker wrote in defense of the outcomes. “If we want to maximize learning for every student, we must work together to build our public schools into the stable, healthy centers of every Alaska community. That’s a score that matters.”


  1. Teachers are at the top of the compensation list with phat checks and phat retirements BUT(!!!), the end result is ranked at the bottom of the list for student performance. Alaskans continue to get fleeced by spending endless amounts of public dollars (State and Muni) with a very low ROI … Go Figure!!!

  2. “Phat retirement???” Have you seen what the current retirement plan is for teachers who have started teaching in Alaska in the past 10+ years? Nothing “phat” about it. It’s basically a 401-k with capped contributions. Sure, the older teachers have a better retirement, but they won’t be around forever. And yes, high quality teachers are leaving the state and the profession for better pay and retirement elsewhere. I personally know two who did this last year. There is a marketplace for teachers. High quality teachers will go where the money and respect are. I don’t want my kids getting taught by those who have no other options. I want my kids getting taught by teachers who were hired because they’re the best of the best. You want to see test scores go up? Pay the best to attract the best teachers.

    • At least the current retirement system permits teachers some flexibility. The old system handcuffed teachers – even poor teachers that didn’t want to stay in the classroom. Yes, low quality teachers, not bad people just not cut out for teaching, also leave the system. But now they at least get to take their retirement grubstake with them. Seems equitable. Districts have the option to sweeten the pot by matching contributions to a 403.b supplemental plan – but I don’t know of any that do so. Seems more of a priorities or leadership problem.

      We absolutely want the best teachers possible. But I wouldn’t over-sell the retirement system as the magic pill. How about reducing the number of regulations surrounding the classroom and allowing teachers to teach, rather than keep records unrelated to learning, dispense medication, perform family interventions, or whatever the current new regulation requires. Good teachers I talk to leave the classroom disillusioned over the profession or worn out by poor leadership. They typically make excellent employees in other professions, by the way.

    • What??????? Pay them phat bucks so that they can brainwash your kid with hoaxes, lies, and political garbage? What kind of parent are YOU?

    • In case you missed it above, AK teachers are second only to NY in pay. Still happy with your last sentence?

    • Average teacher pay needs to be seen in light of the fact that Alaska is a geographically huge state. Bush school districts have traditionally had to pay higher salaries to get teachers there. While I don’t k ow the exact numbers, I would imagine this would bring the statewide average up (as long as my brainwashing public school teachers didn’t teach me incorrectly). I would be very interested to see how Southcentral teacher salaries compare with Lower 48.

  3. NEA Alaska and Great Alaska Schools thoroughly analyzed all relevant material and came up a detailed analysis:

    #1 – Testing students bad

    #2 – Higher teacher pay good

    #3 – I like Jell-O

  4. “Tim Parker, president of NEA-Alaska: Educators know that there is much more to students than a single test score.”

    Can he name one evaluation that places our students in the top half nationally? And now the University is in danger of losing its accreditation…..? High cost and lousy results – what’s wrong with this picture?

    If salary and benefits were based on results rather than tenure we might see a different picture….

    • Randy – I am not a fan of standardized tests but they are the easiest collective measure of evaluating teacher and student success in order to make any necessary changes. Many kids just do not test well. I taught in the classroom years ago and also spent a year substitute teaching. It was very clear to me back then that typically the kids that did the best were the ones that had parental, or caregiver involvement, and lots of accountability at home. The classroom is only part of the equation. During a long term sub position at a very nice elementary school in south Anchorage, I was so delighted to find a huge amount of parental classroom involvement set up. Almost every day their was parent volunteer help scheduled with leading reading groups, preparing & handing out supplies, helping on field trips, in the library etc. It has been almost 30 years but in the four months I was in that classroom I found also most of the students excelled and were excited to learn. The regular teacher I was subbing for welcomed parents and the parents were mostly very involved with their kids. The students were respectful of the teacher, knew the importance of why they were there, and were held accountable. I don’t know what goes on now in classrooms but I think it is far more difficult today for teachers to create such an environment of success.

    • I think the logic is that because we are at the bottom of the pack for achievement we need to pay teachers more than those at the top. Those are the top don’t need to pay more – because they are already at the top. You may think its backwards pants day. You just don’t understand.

  5. I am a former classroom teacher who also homeschooled k-12. Teaching is very hard work. Our teachers bear massive responsibility and good teachers put in countless hours. It can be a richly rewarding career and one that should be well compensated. Still, government positions should also be in parity with the private sector. Alaska has grown the public employment sector over the past decades to far beyond the private sector with the exception of a very few large corporations, mostly oil related. It is a conundrum. Our public school system is at the top in the nation in per student combined government spending per year. As for teacher pay, we are actually in the top ten, although when looking at combined benefit packages it sounds like Suzanne found us in the top 20. Any deficiency in teacher salaries and benefit packages should not be due to need for more money. Why are we at the top for money received yet quite a bit further down with salaries? I am sincerely curious. Where is the money going? Insurance? Administration?

  6. Better pay & benefits may be available elsewhere? Well then, if thats what an employee wants then maybe they should move if that is their main reason for being here. Alaska should pay what the state can afford (along with all the other state’s obligations) & what the taxpayers are willing to support.

    I’ve left state jobs in the criminal justice field moving to different jurisdictions for ideological reasons & taken cuts in the process but, in the end, thrived because I agreed with the philosiphies of the agency. Money/benefits are not everything when it comes to where you choose to work.

    If you look at some of the states with the best public employee benefits taxpayers are leaving because taxes have become so high they are not willing to continue to shoulder that burden.

    Educators are a valuable addition to the state’s workforce. No question about it. But they’re pay & benefits should not necessarily be what they want rather what Alaskans ( as their employers) are willing to pay for reasonable public education in this state. It doesn’t have to be the best or the most expensive or even result in the best test scoring. Rather, what works for Alaska.

  7. Where’s the money going?

    Elizabeth your question is the basis for the governor’s attempt to get expenses and budget back in line with reality. The money is going to all manner of nice sounding programs, which have been enacted in the last few years, and which we can’t afford.

  8. Ask yourself this: who does the NEA represent? And, when was the last time that the NEA and the teachers union went out on strike for anything but higher wages/benefits for the teachers?

    Where are the students in this picture?

  9. My Mother taught me is a one room school house on the top of a bear hill in Montana. There was a Coal/Wood stove for heat and a hand pumped well in front of the school where students took turns pumping the water and packing it in every morning. Everyone drank water with a dipper out of this bucket and no one got sick. It was a Country School of 1st through 8th Grade and some came to school on horseback. That was in the early 1950’s. Teaching school of Grades 1st through 8th in one room was the norm back then and children got a far greater cross section education than anyone gets now days. There were no Teachers Unions and the Teachers never complained about pay or conditions. People in general are spoiled today. They are also over taxed too. Most of the Colonial people were taught in the kind of school I went to or Home Schooled and they were the Founders of our “Constitutional Republic. Everyone needs to look back in history and learn what worked back then. Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

    • No computers back then See More.Time change. What you suggest may work up to a 4-5th grade education which is what many forefather and the like got. After that, had to help Pa feed the family.

      • All computers do is enrich the maker. Our Nation was founded on people doing everything with paper and pencil. I still have the small slate chalk board my dad used to do all his school work on. My Father stopped school in his Freshman year and he could multiply three figures in his head. He was born in 1898 and was self employed most of his life. How many Public School children can do what my Dad did that that age??
        Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

  10. The WalletHub study did NOT include benefits in its study, only salaries. One needs to add about $40,000 to get an ASD teacher’s total compensation package.

  11. Look, let us dismiss the absurdity that one-size-fits-all tests can quantify the value of an education. Each person is an individual, coming from an individual circumstance, with individual capabilities. Until we understand this, public education is a “one size fits all” dilemma.

    In the midst of this dilemma, where do we go?

    That is the question? If you don’t understand that….well, G. W. Bush didn’t.

    I do not have the answer?

    But I can guarantee you, if you pay teachers $100,000 a year, things will change.

    • Alaska Policy Forum has a list from 2017 of what ASD staff were making, with & without benefits. You might be surprised at how many make $100k or more.

  12. Yes, as Socialism always does, the Nobles get richer and the Peasants get poorer. Karl Marx is really laughing in his grave just reading what people wrongly believe and write about. “Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.” Santayana. (sp?) Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. Sui juris

  13. If I had a heart, this story would break it. Big tears poured from my eyes as I read it. Alaska is already among the highest states in spending per student while turning out one the lowest in test scores in the nation. So whether a “Teacher Of The Year” chooses to leave, too bad,so sad.. Don’t let the door hit you and your family in the ass on your way out of state. The only feedback from teachers union spokesmen is that we are spending too little on schools. Fully fund us and don’t dare ask us anything about our operation because civilians (taxpayers) don’t know the inner working of a school system. The public school budgets already eats up over half of the revenue a city/borough receives. I like cops, parks and highways plowed too. It’s time to return to boundary schools only with little if any special schools eating up a disproportion share in a district’s budget. I couldn’t care less if the parent demand these special spots or not. Pay the difference in operating cost if you have failed to develop your kids to an acceptable level from age 1-5. I realize this new idea will offend some senior teachers who (in their minds) have earned a vacation from real teaching to land a position in one of the special education/career spots.. Also a change in the law that would allow a parent to get ALL the money spent on their child so they go to a non-affiliated with the district charter school, Catholic, or any religious or private school where the focus is on academics and not football, hockey, plays, special kids days off and making sure the kids have a good time. The free market floats all ships. Parents and not overpaid administrators should decide what their school teaching content should be. And maybe revamp the teachers work-rules so they work at least 80% of the year and cut the herd of people at the school district office down to a reasonable number (a 50% cut for a start)..Have a great day.

  14. From another point of view… I am a bio-mom, a foster mom and an adoptive mom. I work in a professional setting and most of my kids have traveled with me so have a more global view of the world than most. They have gone to schools in the bush and gone to schools in Anchorage. Adjusting for biological factors (FASD and schizophrenia), I can say that all of my kids got some sort of education. Did it prepare any one of them for college? Without coming across as racist (don’t go there) I can say that only one of my kids came out with enough mastery of English, writing, math or science skills to make a successful go of college. I don’t totally blame the schools. These kids were set up in a bad way from their humble beginnings. But there sure wasn’t enough of appropriately placed support systems in the schools to do any more than pass them through.

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