Average salaries for teachers in Marin County have been rising, but not as fast as the cost of living, according to state and county data.
Marin public school teachers received an average of $89,935 in 2020-21, said Mary Jane Burke, the county school superintendent. That was a 1.79% increase from $88,352 in 2019-20.
Nationwide, the average teacher salary rose to $85,856 in the 2020-21 school year, up 1.6% from 2019-20, according to new state data.
By comparison, inflation rose about 5% from May 2020 to May 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that California teachers typically saw their real wages fall.
Typical home values in California rose about 15% to $657,000 over the same period, according to Zillow, a real estate data company.
Teacher salaries were highest in Silicon Valley’s Mountain View-Los Altos Union high school district. District faculty salaries averaged about $145,200.
At the same time, the cost of living is rising. The median price for a single-family home in Marin was $1.7 million in February, according to the latest data from the County Assessor’s Office. That was an increase of 11% over the previous year.
“With the volatility of the current economy, there is no question that our educators will be negatively impacted,” Burke said. “This also includes increased fuel costs for school staff who travel long distances to work due to high housing costs in Marin.”
Union leaders representing teachers in Marin say they are all too aware of the situation.
“Rising home prices are making it increasingly difficult to raise a family in Marin on a educator’s salary, which is why so many teachers face unsustainable commutes on a daily basis,” said Morgan Agnew, president of the San Rafael Federation of Teachers.
“Until we address the structural issues of the lack of affordable housing and the low pay of teachers relative to other professionals, it will become increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the most talented and dedicated educators,” said Agnew, a math and science graduate Computer Expert Science teacher at Terra Linda High School.
Mariah Fisher, president of the Novato Federation of Teachers, said the situation with its members is worse because they are at the lower end of the pay scale in Marin.
“While the average in Marin may be $89,000, Novato is very different,” Fisher said. “I’ve been teaching for 17 years and I don’t have that salary yet.”
San Rafael City Schools Superintendent Jim Hogeboom said the district has done its best to stay competitive, even offering some employees significant one-time bonuses during the pandemic to ease the financial strain.
“While the state and federal governments have provided the schools with the one-off money they need, including the COVID relief funds, this cannot be used for ongoing pay increases,” Hogeboom said. “As a result, we used a combination of pay increases and one-time bonuses to reward our employees.”
“Knowing that maintaining a strong compensation and benefits package for our valuable employees is a top priority for our district, we will make every effort to allocate resources in a manner that ensures our employees receive their fair share of new funds entering the district flow,” said Hogeboom. “Unfortunately, with inflation at a 30-year high, this may not be enough to keep up with the very high cost of living in Marin. ”
The average teacher salary depends on a number of factors. Salaries increase with seniority, so a district with a preponderance of experienced teachers would tend to pay more on average than a district with many inexperienced teachers. Cost of living also plays a role, as districts in expensive communities have to pay more to attract talent.
The best balance of salaries and housing for teachers is in Tulelake, a small town in Siskiyou County. The average teacher salary there last year was $75,027, and the home typically cost about $163,000.
The toughest spot by this metric is the Ravenswood City School District in San Mateo County, where the median wage is $74,400 but the typical price for a home is about $1.67 million.
According to the California Department of Education, average teacher salaries in major counties in Marin for 2020-21 included:
• Marin County Board of Education, $99,097
• Larkspur-Corte Madera School District, $89,337
• Mill Valley School District, $98,910
• Novato Unified School District, $80,630
• Reed Union School District, $95,489
• Ross Valley School District: $79,017
• Ross School District, $95,638
• San Rafael City Schools, Basic District: $90,051
• San Rafael City Schools, High School District: $103,787
• Sausalito Marin City School District: $85,089
• Shoreline Unified School District: $86,977
• Tamalpais Union School District: $107,908
The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.