Texas Teacher Salaries: Part 1 – Comparing Salary Levels

In the first post of this series, I outlined the questions that I hoped to answer about teacher salaries in Texas. The first question was, “does Austin ISD have a truly lower salary than other comparable Texas school districts”. In this post, we will dig into the data to see if we can answer this question.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is a rich source of information and data on all education-related topics in Texas, including teacher salaries. One report in particular contains staff counts and aggregate salary information by school district and grade-level for each school year going back to 2011 (see Staff FTE Counts and Salary Reports). The latest report (2015 – 2016 school year) has teacher-staff information on 1,203 school districts, but many of these districts are small; only 77 employ more than 1000 full-time teaching staff, and a large majority employ fewer than 100 full-time teachers:
It might not be helpful to compare salaries across all of these school districts, given that most are very small and specialized. Fortunately, the TEA groups these districts into categories that differentiate school districts by region type and size. These categories are:

  • Major Urban
  • Major Suburban
  • Other Central City
  • Other Central City Suburban
  • Independent Town
  • Non-Metropolitan: Fast Growing
  • Non-Metropolitan: Stable
  • Rural
  • Charter School Districts

Austin ISD is classified as a ‘Major Urban’ school district along with 10 others, such as Dallas ISD and Houston ISD. If we compare the average salaries of the ‘Major Urban’ school districts, we can quickly see that Austin ISD does indeed have a comparatively low average salary:AverageSalaryBarplot2
This supports my impression that Austin ISD salaries are lower than Dallas ISD. I was surprised to find that Austin is materially lower than all other districts in the ‘Major Urban’ cohort, and even lower than the average of the ‘Major Suburban’ districts.

It’s understandable that average salaries would vary across school districts. In comparing salaries in school districts of similar size, we should be careful to adjust for factors that would be expected to contribute to meaningful differences; factors like regional cost-of-living, teacher tenure, and unobserved benefits beyond base salary. In the next post, I plan to review salary differences net of such adjustments.