If you were asked to guess where Utah ranks on a survey of the best states for teachers, my guess is you would score it somewhere closer to the bottom than the top. In Utah, an aggressive teachers’ union has conditioned us to believe it can’t get much worse than here.
But Wallet Hub ranked the state 14th best in a study released this week.
(See an interactive map here: https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-teachers/7159/)
When you take the intermountain region into consideration, Utah scored much better than any of its neighbors, other than Wyoming, which finished fourth overall. Arizona came in a dismal 49th.
There are, of course, many ways to measure the value of anything. Wallet Hub has at least provided an alternative to the usual script provided by a teaching establishment with an obvious motivation to make things look a certain way.
Yes, the state spends little per student, mainly because it has so many students. But the usual 51st out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, which we’ve been conditioned to hear, came out at 50th in this survey, with Arizona scoring worse. Also, Utah was second worst in student-teacher ratios, with California taking last place. Neither finish is anything about which to brag, although there are plenty of debates concerning the importance of per pupil expenditures.
On the bright side, Utah ranked 14th for “job opportunity and competition,” which included salaries, salary changes over the last 10 years plus projected student-teacher ratios by 2022, among other things.
The state ranked 20th for “academic and work environment.” This includes such things as commute times, a ranking of school systems (Utah was 14th best) and how well the state does for its working moms (again, Utah came in 14th).
Four years ago, the Utah Foundation published a report on teacher salaries, with results that probably land somewhere between what the Utah Education Association says and the Wallet Hub study. Salary comparisons can be tricky. The Utah Foundation said comparing the pay of teachers with similar education and experience puts Utah in the middle of the pack among neighboring states. Utah has increased pay for beginning teachers more than it has for veterans, and there are incentives available for teaching subjects for which teachers are in short supply.
Also, Wyoming ranks high because its state Supreme Court ruled a few years ago that its school financing system was illegal, prompting reforms.
There are many ways to look at any problem, of course. Wallet Hub has given us another view into examining education. The folks in North Carolina, with a 50th-place finish, may take solace in that.