These Illinois cities rank among the worst-paying areas for teachers in the US: analysis

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(NEXSTAR) — Many teachers across the U.S. continue to face low wages, but in some metropolitan areas, an educator’s salary can stretch further than in others.

The projected average national salary for public school teachers for the 2022-23 school year is $68,469, according to the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers’ union in the country. When adjusted for inflation, the average has declined by 6.4% over the past decade, the NEA said in its annual Rankings and Estimates report.

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In McAllen, Texas, educators – including K-12, postsecondary, preschool, substitute and self-enrichment teachers – have the highest purchasing power compared to teachers in other cities, based on data analyzed by the personal finance firm MoneyGeek.

The average annual salary in the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metro area is $73,153 – but after accounting for taxes and the cost of living, the adjusted take-home pay comes to $68,271. Again, that’s still higher than elsewhere in the country, according to MoneyGeek’s report, which ranked the metro areas that offer the best real income for educators.

For K-12 educators looking to get the most out of their salaries, the Kennewick-Richland metro area in Washington might be ideal. K-12 teachers have the highest take-home pay there at an average of $60,822. Meanwhile, postsecondary teachers have the highest purchasing power in Las Cruces, New Mexico, with an average take-home pay of $84,429.

But what about Illinois?

MoneyGeek reviewed 178 metro areas overall, including seven in and around Illinois.

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The highest ranking was the St. Louis area. Even though the city is in Missouri, its bi-state metro area includes several Illinois counties. MoneyGeek found the average annual salary there is more than $74,300, and the take-home pay is about $59,800. That put St. Louis as the eighth-best metro area for educators overall in the nation.

Only one other Illinois metro ranked in the top half of MoneyGeek’s list: Champaign-Urbana.

The rest fell among the metros where educators earn the least. The lowest ranking was Springfield, where MoneyGeek determined teachers take home less than $43,000.

Here are the Illinois metro areas (yes, some are bi- or tri-state areas) MoneyGeek analyzed, as well as how they ranked overall.

Metro AreaOverall RankAverage Annual SalaryAdjusted Take-Home PaySt. Louis, MO-IL8$74,316$59,819Champaign-Urbana, IL44$67,379$52,960Peoria, IL88$56,332$47,791Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL101$55,534$46,328Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI105$73,192$46,178Kankakee, IL133$51,323$43,303Springfield, IL135$52,394$42,786Source: MoneyGeek | *Take-home pay includes income after tax and living costs.

While the Champaign-Urbana metro area ranked as only No. 44 overall, it ranked much higher when it came to just postsecondary teachers. MoneyGeek found in the area, home to the University of Illinois, a college educator has an average pre-tax salary of over $94,400. That leaves them with a take-home pay of slightly over $72,100.

Champaign-Urbana ranked as the tenth-best metro for college educators.

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Among the 178 metropolitan areas that MoneyGeek analyzed, Hawaii’s capital fared the worst for teachers’ pay. The annual income for educators in Honolulu averages $51,778, but the take-home pay comes to just $22,677.

Other cities where teachers earn less than $35,000 after taxes and living costs include Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Prescott, Arizona.

Here are the U.S. cities with the highest – and lowest – adjusted teacher salaries, according to MoneyGeek:

RankMetropolitan AreaTake-Home Pay*Average Annual SalaryRankMetropolitan AreaTake-Home Pay*Average Annual Salary1McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX$68,271$73,153164Durham-Chapel Hill, NC$39,405$54,7102Auburn-Opelika, AL$66,080$85,617165Flagstaff, AZ$39,350$60,2973El Paso, TX$65,260$74,846166Pueblo, CO$39,284$50,6884Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX$65,198$79,310167Evansville, IN-KY$39,135$47,8425San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX$64,031$76,777168Manhattan, KS$38,927$46,4976Austin-Round Rock, TX$61,973$80,805169Muncie, IN$38,919$45,2637Knoxville, TN$60,559$67,801170Colorado Springs, CO$37,912$55,7478St. Louis, MO-IL$59,819$74,316171Burlington, NC$37,565$45,2359Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI$58,987$77,591172San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$37,505$95,77510Kalamazoo-Portage, MI$58,577$66,425173Kokomo, IN$36,943$41,22711Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT$57,976$83,906174Bloomington, IN$36,224$47,40612Cleveland-Elyria, OH$57,964$73,307175Grand Junction, CO$35,178$47,65513New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA$57,781$101,068176Prescott, AZ$34,976$50,64614Reno, NV$57,226$77,310177Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC$32,434$44,08215Brownsville-Harlingen, TX$57,036$58,305178Honolulu, HI$22,677$58,094

An article published in April on the NEA’s website noted that low wages haven’t been on par with inflation and could worsen school staffing shortages as teachers look for better pay.

“Educators who dedicate their lives to students shouldn’t be struggling to support their own families,” NEA President Becky Pringle said in the article. “A career in education must not be a lifetime sentence of financial worry. Who will choose to teach under those circumstances?”

MoneyGeek analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Council for Community and Economic Research for its analysis. Click here to view the full report.

Illinois’ overall low rankings may not be much of a surprise. Recently released U.S. Census Bureau data shows that Illinois residents with degrees in education are the second-lowest earners among those with bachelor’s degrees in the state. Only those with degrees in the visual and performing arts earn less, on average.


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