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Montana teacher pay may be higher than previously thought, new data show

Montana Department of Labor and Industry

New data from the state Department of Labor and Industry are spotlighting discrepancies in teacher pay across Montana. State lawmakers met the week of June 17th to discuss ways to improve teacher pay.

The state labor department’s preliminary findings indicate first-year teacher salaries in Montana are higher than previously thought.

The state labor department found the average pay for starting teachers in Montana is just more than $43,000. That’s about $9,000 more than the often-cited average reported by the National Education Association.

Republican Rep. Llew Jones of Conrad called the NEA’s ranking placing Montana last in the nation for starting teacher pay “disappointing.”

“I’m not disappointed in that I don’t believe teachers need more pay,” Jones said. “I’m disappointed in that that message discourages people from becoming teachers,” Jones said.

The National Education Association uses union-reported data on negotiated starting wages. The state labor department says its findings indicate new teachers often make more in their first year than a district’s base salary.

The Montana Federation of Public Employees represents public school teachers in Montana. Policy director Kim Popham told lawmakers that the differing data don’t change the day-to-day challenges teachers face.

“More than anything else, we hear from teachers that they can’t afford to live and work in Montana,” Popham said.

The new state data show starting wages vary at schools of different sizes. New teachers at class-C schools make $39,000 on average, while their counterparts at class-AA schools make $45,000.

The data will likely inform lawmakers’ efforts to incentivize schools to boost teacher pay when the Legislature meets in 2025.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

He is best reached by emailing
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