Teacher Salary Gains Tempered By Health-Benefit Costs, Says AFT

By Linda Jacobson — July 15, 2004 1 min read

The average salary for teachers across the country has increased by 3.3 percent, to $45,771 a year, according to the latest state-by-state survey conducted by the American Federation of Teachers.

And beginning salaries have inched up 3.2 percent—from $28,661 during the 2001-02 school year to $29,564 in the 2002-03 school year.

But any extra money that teachers see in their paychecks is being swallowed up by rising out-of-pocket costs for health benefits, the survey suggests. Over that same time, the amount teachers paid for health-insurance coverage increased by 13 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Even as teachers are being asked to do more, compensation packages are nothing short of insulting,” Edward J. McElroy, the secretary-treasurer of the Washington-based teachers’ union, said in a press release about the annual survey.

The results were released July 15 during the AFT’s biennial convention, held in Washington.

Citing recent figures from a survey of more than 500 school districts by the non-profit Educational Research Service—which show average increases of more than 12 percent in the salaries of the districts’ superintendents and 4 percent for their principals in inflation-adjusted dollars over the past decade, while their average teacher salary declined by almost 2 percent—Mr. McElroy suggested that districts and state policymakers don’t have their priorities in the right place.

“States and school districts are crying poverty when it comes to teachers’ pay, yet somehow find money for extravagant administrator salaries,” the press release said. “Strong leadership without a quality teaching force won’t improve education.”

The state-by-state results of the AFT’s salary survey show that teachers in California earn the highest average pay, $55,693. Other states in the top 10 include Michigan, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Teachers in South Dakota earn the lowest average pay, $32,414, with Oklahoma, Mississippi, and North Dakota also in that range.