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U.S. Cities With the Highest and Lowest Paid Elementary School Teachers in 2024

Elementary school teachers play an invaluable role in the success and happiness of America’s children, and in turn, they profoundly influence the future of the nation as a whole. So are elementary school teachers paid fairly? According to a nationally representative survey conducted by RAND (a nonprofit research organization that addresses public policy challenges), 66% of U.S. teachers feel they are not adequately paid. This is significantly more than the 39% of U.S. working adults that feel the same way. In addition, teachers on average work 15 more hours per week than required by contract, so one out of every four hours worked goes uncompensated. The average teacher salary is not keeping up with the cost of living either; adjusted for inflation, teachers are making 5.3 percent less than they did a decade ago. It takes time and commitment for teachers to reach fair pay as well. A staggering 77% of school districts still pay a teacher starting salary of under $50,000 (and 28.6% start below $40,000)! The team at Playground Equipment knows first hand just how priceless educators are and just how much they pour their hearts and souls (and own money!) into creating the best experiences possible for their students. That’s why we’re releasing this report revealing where elementary school teachers get paid the most and least to highlight issues and help readers make more informed choices: 

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We released a report on the topic of elementary school teacher pay by city in 2019, but with so many unprecedented changes in just the past few years, we decided to update it with the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data available. 

Where do elementary school teachers get paid the most? 

The best city for elementary school teachers in terms of average salary is El Centro, California, which offers a mean annual wage of $110,420. That is significantly higher than the average elementary school teacher salary in the United States, which is $70,740. Here are the top ten cities that pay elementary school teachers the most in America: 

  1. El Centro, CA average elementary school teacher salary - $110,420
  2. San Francisco, CA elementary school teacher salary - $103,520
  3. Oxnard, CA average elementary school teacher salary - $102,960
  4. Riverside, CA average elementary school teacher salary - $97,240
  5. Merced, CA average elementary school teacher salary - $96,980
  6. San Jose, CA average elementary school teacher salary - $96,730
  7. New York, NY average elementary school teacher salary - $96,450
  8. Visalia, CA average elementary school teacher salary - $95,890
  9. Seattle, WA average elementary school teacher salary - $95,630
  10. Napa, CA average elementary school teacher salary - $95,370

Is there a teacher shortage? 

Does the U.S. have a teacher shortage? If so, why is there a teacher shortage? This is where it comes full circle. One of the primary reasons why there is a teacher shortage in America is low pay. In 2022, teachers made on average 26.4% less than professionals with a similar level of education. That is counter-intuitive, considering teachers are the ones providing the education. Most public K-12 teachers earned a master’s degree, yet the median pay for teaching is nearly $20,000 lower than the median pay of others with an advanced degree. Take a look at this teacher shortage by state map – you may notice that there are some strong correlations between states facing the greatest teaching shortages and our map of elementary school teacher pay by state. 

Low pay for teachers is a well-known issue, so much so that becoming a teacher is often not advised. According to the Spotlight on Education survey conducted by the University of Chicago, 44% of respondents were “not at all likely” to encourage their child or another young person to become a K-12 teacher. Why? You guessed it. Low pay. 69% of respondents described the low pay for educators as a “major barrier” for becoming a teacher. 57% of respondents agreed that schools not having adequate resources to meet student needs as a major barrier as well, which contributes to the issue. The National Education Association reports that well over 90% of educators spend their own money on school supplies. The organization also anticipates that teacher’s out-of-pocket spending will reach over $800 for the 2023-2024 school year. 

If you are a teacher struggling to get the supplies you need, here are some resources to check out: 

If you need moral support, here are our 30 favorite inspirational quotes from fictional teachers and mentors! If you need new play systems at your school, look no further than our elementary school playground equipment or commercial playground swing sets.

Where Do Elementary School Teachers Get Paid the Most (and Least)?

U.S. mean annual wage: $70,740

The Top 25 Highest-Paid Cities for Teachers: 

City Average Salary
1. El Centro, CA $110,420
2. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $103,520
3. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA $102,960
4. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA $97,240
5. Merced, CA $96,980
6. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $96,730
7. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA $96,450
8. Visalia-Porterville, CA $95,890
9. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA $95,630
10. Napa, CA $95,370
11. Modesto, CA $94,990
12. Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA $94,770
13. Bremerton-Silverdale, WA $94,370
14. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA $94,310
15. Madera, CA $94,130
16. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA $93,750
17. Fresno, CA $93,480
18. Yuba City, CA $93,290
19. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA $93,130
20. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT $92,510
21. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA $92,440
22. Salinas, CA $92,240
23. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA $91,780
24. San Diego-Carlsbad, CA $91,760
25. Hanford-Corcoran, CA $91,230

The Top 25 Lowest-Paid Cities for Teachers: 

City Average Salary
1. Enid, OK $45,900
2. Jackson, MS $47,560
3. Fayetteville, NC $47,590
4. Hattiesburg, MS $47,730
5. Rocky Mount, NC $47,980
6. Beckley, WV $48,080
7. Jacksonville, NC $48,260
8. Asheville, NC $49,370
9. Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC $49,580
10. Prescott, AZ $49,620
11. Greenville, NC $49,780
12. Goldsboro, NC $49,850
13. New Bern, NC $49,960
14. Jackson, TN $49,990
15. Lake Charles, LA $50,030
16. Lynchburg, VA $50,130
17. Parkersburg-Vienna, WV $50,220
18. Manhattan, KS $50,270
19. Sioux Falls, SD $50,310
20. Jefferson City, MO $50,370
21. Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL $50,550
22. Burlington, NC $50,950
23. Charleston, WV $51,150
24. Cape Girardeau, MO-IL $51,190
25. Pine Bluff, AR $5,1540


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (

Learn about the author: Ben Thompson