The teachers strike in West Virginia may have ended last week when Gov. Jim Justice signed a law giving educators a 5 percent pay increase, but the fight in other states is just warming up.
"You can make anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 more by driving 15 minutes across the state line," said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association. "We're having trouble keeping and attracting young teachers."
And this refrain is not new or unique to West Virginia.
The ink had barely dried in West Virginia before teachers in Oklahoma made it clear they too could walk out if lawmakers don't find a way to raise their pay and school spending.
In recent years, thousands of public school teachers in Oklahoma have crossed state lines for better pay.
"It's gotten so bad that the state Department of Education has had to issue emergency teacher certifications to replace teachers as quickly as possible," reported Emily Wendler of member station KOSU in July. "Across the state, textbooks are out-of-date, electives have been eliminated and support positions are being terminated left and right."
Even Shawn Sheehan, a math teacher in Norman, Okla., and the state's 2016 teacher of the year, decided he simply couldn't afford to stay. So he moved his family to Texas.
"Sure, life can be done on $400, $450 a month, but I would challenge others out there to buy diapers, groceries and all the things that you need for a family of three on $400," Sheehan told Wendler. "[Moving] feels good because I know I'm doing the right thing for my family, but it also feels sad."
This got us wondering: What do teachers make across the country?
When people (not just teachers and politicians, but reporters, too) talk about average salaries, they often use numbers that haven't been adjusted for regional differences in cost of living. Clearly, the costs of life — from rents and mortgages to movies, food and day care — vary widely, depending on where we live. Without adjusting for that, comparing teachers' salaries in New York to, say, California is classic apples to oranges.
Sure, life can be done on $400, $450 a month, but I would challenge others out there to buy diapers, groceries and all the things that you need for a family of three on $400.