Wyoming teachers and staff may see an annual cost-of-living adjustment as lawmakers advanced a $25 million hike that would start in 2022. But it’s unclear how far that might go toward bringing salaries in line with a national average that has outpaced the state in recent years.

Wyoming’s average teacher salary is about 93% of the national average, according to the Legislative Service Office.

The Joint Education Interim Committee on Monday supported the “external cost adjustment” with nine yes votes, four no votes and one excused. Now it’s up to the Joint Appropriations Committee to decide whether to include the ECA as proposed by the Education Committee in a budget bill.

“If we maintain our current trajectory, it won’t be long before we have lost what little competitive edge that we still have.”

Tate Mullen, government relations director, Wyoming Education Association

The average salary for Wyoming teachers today remains strong compared to neighboring states, according to a Legislative Service Office report. However, it has declined when compared to the national average and is now at the lowest comparative point in 10 years. 

“The actual salaries have shown little growth since 2012,” LSO consultant Christina Stoddard told lawmakers. “As a result, those teaching wages have fallen behind salaries in comparable occupations in Wyoming … from 96% to 85%.”

Although average teacher salaries in the state are competitive with neighboring states, advocates say Wyoming needs a better edge in the national market. That’s because the allure of teaching, in general, has eroded throughout the nation in recent years and especially since the pandemic, they say.

Although the average teacher salary in Wyoming remains competitive with neighboring states, it has lagged behind the national average in recent years. (Wyoming Legislative Service Office)

“On the national front, teachers have felt underappreciated, overworked and underpaid,” Wyoming Education Association Government Relations Director Tate Mullen told lawmakers. “These sentiments are shared by many educators in the state of Wyoming. The flat salaries, consistent threats to education funding, coupled with the high stress of teaching in our current atmosphere, they’ve had measurable impacts on our education system.”

To attract and maintain high-quality teachers in rural Wyoming requires paying a higher wage than surrounding states, Mullen said.

“If we maintain our current trajectory, it won’t be long before we have lost what little competitive edge that we still have,” Mullen said.

Joint Education Committee Co-Chairman Charles Scott (R-Casper) shares a concern with several other committee members that school districts already have enough funding and spending discretion to raise salaries for certain positions, he said.

The notion of a growing salary disadvantage, “maybe the evidence doesn’t support that,” said Scott, who voted against the ECA measure.   

Women still make up about 70% of the teaching workforce in Wyoming, according to a Wyoming Department of Education staffing report. Other reports suggest that stimulus dollars provided to school districts through the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act have not resulted in a significant number of new teaching positions in Wyoming.

“There’s not a lot of pressure coming from rising student enrollment,” Stoddard told lawmakers. “So I don’t anticipate you having to hire a big new crop of teachers due to increased student enrollment.”

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to attribute a statistic regarding the percentage of women in Wyoming’s teaching workforce to a Wyoming Department of Education staffing report.Ed.

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 25 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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  1. Of course I am seeing comments here suggesting “accountability” before we raise teacher pay. The idea that test scores are somehow a reflection of the excellence of an education system or even worse an individual teacher is an obvious result of applying market systems and values to an arena which abides by neither. The purpose of education is to create a strong civic body, which it is clear has failed after 40 years of market values in education.

  2. If you add to what the teachers now make another two or three percent for the ( very modest) state income tax they won’t be paying, and compute in the far lower Wyoming property taxes, ,and probably lower housing costs, they are taking home more than lower salaries suggest. There’s something else afoot. Some may not want to live in a conservative rural environment, however beautiful.

  3. The cost of educating students in Wyoming is high because we have so many rural schools and the number of kids bussed to school. We do not pay our teachers extraordinary salaries. You think we have a small ratio of teacher to students, but rural schools with only a few students exaggerates this ratio.

  4. Until somebody has the leadership to really challenge education funding and spending in this state, create a results based model, education funding is always going to be cluster.

    How can Wyoming spend the 2 most money per student in this country, have student performance be middle of the pack with other states and teacher compensation be below the national average. Where is the money going?

    And let’s not use the excuse we are a rural state. Other rural states/districts in this region spend less per student, have better performance and average teacher salaries. The problem is the State Constitution gives too much power to education in this state with no accountability.

    1. Great question. I assumed that the terrible California model where teachers are paid according to their education level with no accountability was being applied. Where is the money going?

  5. All public employee unions coordinate to create these arguments. California and Illinois cities raise salaries as quality declines. Then other cities follow. Then more and more. Quality declines across the board as teachers from decimated cities move to areas where parents are unsuspecting and trusting. CRT and Common Core and low test scores inevitably follow. Be wary.

          1. You’re welcome.
            “In a world of universal deceit, telling the truth is a rebellious act.”
            I had some very good teachers. They would stand beside me against what the left has done to education.

          2. If there was any “truth” to your nonsense, I’d agree. Honestly though, you seem to struggle with facts. Maybe you need to get your barometer of truth calibrated?