Same data, gentler framing: State publishes previously suppressed wage analysis for Alaska teachers

By: Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon
The halls are lined with lockers and portraits of elders at the Anna Tobeluk Memorial School in Nunapitchuk, Alaska. October 12, 2023. (Photo by Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)

Juneau, Alaska (Alaska Beacon) – An article in the latest issue of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s magazine outlines the data behind shrinking teacher wages in Alaska.

Dunleavy administration staff stopped the publication of the article last month, which was slated to be the cover article. It was published in this month’s issue, but not as a cover article and with a different headline, after reporting from multiple news outlets and op-ed pieces from current and former Labor Department leaders who expressed their discontent with what they said was censorship and suppression of state data.

The new framing of the article is gentler: The headline went from “Teachers’ shrinking wage advantage” to “How teachers’ wages compare,” but little in the article itself changed at all.

The numbers bear out what teachers and education advocates have said for years: Alaska’s teacher wages have dropped and it is the only state in the country without a defined pension for teachers.

Between the 1980s and the 1990s, Alaska lost much of its competitive pay advantage, or pay premium, which has hovered closer to the average national pay since. New teachers now make less over the course of their careers — educators who started careers in fiscal year 2012 earned roughly $2,000 per year less than those who did 10 years before — and the state is losing teachers faster than it can hire them.

The report comes as Alaska school districts report problems hiring teachers. Earlier this year, Dunleavy vetoed half of a $175 million one-time boost to education funding that was approved by the Legislature.