A recent study conducted by the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research has highlighted that teacher salaries in Alaska lag behind those in much of the Lower 48 states when adjusted for the state’s high cost of living. The research, led by economics professor Matthew Berman and co-authored with Dayna DeFeo, director of the Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, reveals that despite the nominal figures, Alaska’s educators earn less on average than their counterparts nationwide.

This issue has been at the forefront of discussions in the Alaska Legislature and among local school boards throughout the state. The matter gained further attention last week when Governor Mike Dunleavy vetoed what would have been a historic funding increase for Alaska’s schools, citing the absence of specific priorities such as teacher bonuses and support for charter schools in the bill. The subsequent attempt to override the governor’s veto fell short by just one vote.

The timing of the study coincides with significant challenges faced by Alaska school districts in recruiting and retaining qualified teaching staff. Education advocates, along with superintendents and school board members, argue that stagnant state funding for education and the absence of a defined benefit retirement system have hampered efforts to improve teacher compensation and benefits. According to Berman and DeFeo, the issue of competitive teacher salaries in Alaska, when accounting for cost of living adjustments, has been a persistent problem for decades.

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