How Pennsylvania Teachers Salaries Stack Up

teacherIf the Chicago teachers union walk-out on school children or the WGAL story on sick-time pay has you wondering about teacher salaries in Pennsylvania, you’re in luck. Our comprehensive database on salaries, spending, taxes and enrollment for all 500 school districts at has been updated with 2011-12 professional salary info from the Pa. Department of Education.

Here is a selection of what you can find:

  • The average salary for a classroom teacher in Pennsylvania was $61,319 in 2011-12.
  • Pittsburgh teacher pay is similar to Chicago, with an average salary of $71,000. Philadelphia teachers earn somewhat less in salary, at $68,000.
  • The average classroom teacher in Lower Merion SD earned $89,671, the highest in the state.
  • The average salary (without benefits) for all professional staff in Neshaminy school district—where employees may strike for the second consecutive year—is more than $79,000.
  • The average district superintendent earns more than $131,000 in salary.

The Chicago teacher strike also raises some important questions about how we pay teachers, and why.

In Pennsylvania, most school union contracts give teachers automatic increases for earning masters and doctorate degrees, and for simply logging additional years in the teaching profession. Regardless of subject—whether you teach agriculture or art, physics or physical education—advanced degrees and seniority guarantee hefty salaries. Large, mechanical salary increases for an entire teaching staff tend to drive up taxpayer costs without guaranteeing better teachers.

This also means we can’t reward our best teachers as they deserve. At the same time, the current system rewards below-average and poor teachers, though they have dismal effects on student achievement.

This year, the Pennsylvania legislature rightly moved to reform how we evaluate teacher performance, basing it more on student results. Teacher performance, in turn, should be linked to salaries—creating a realistic, targeted and affordable system of merit pay. We need excellent teachers, but we also need a clearer way to identify them—and pay them.