Federal

Fla. Urges Comparable Teacher-Compensation Reporting

By Bess Keller — May 16, 2006 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Florida education officials are crying “unfair” about the way teachers’ salaries are reported, and they want the federal government to do something about it.

Meanwhile, the official in charge of federal education statistics has pinpointed teacher compensation as an area that needs work and has begun an effort to improve what the government provides.

“There’s remarkable coherence in what Florida is talking about and what we have identified as major holes, and the work needed to fill them,” said Mark Schneider, who heads the National Center for Education Statistics, or NCES.

He praised Florida for the job it did in producing a review of teacher pay across 15 states.

Salary Perspectives

Florida education officials show how considering state income taxes and mandatory retirement contributions can alter the teacher-salary rankings provided by the National Education Association. Other factors could likely alter the rankings.

*Click image to see the full chart.

Click to enlarge: Salary Perspectives

SOURCE: Florida Department of Education

Issued last week, the report argues that Florida’s average teacher-salary statistic doesn’t do the state justice. Further, according to the report, variations in the ways states tote up their average teacher salaries “preclude accurate and fair comparisons.”

Both national teachers’ unions issue annual teacher-salary reports, and the one produced by the American Federation of Teachers is included in a “condition of education” report put out by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, the education-statistics center, an arm of the department, “has tried to report our own numbers, but I’m not happy with them,” Mr. Schneider said.

All this concern for the validity of pay figures is especially pertinent in a state that next year will need to find an additional 11,000 teachers for its classrooms.

“How we look has a great function in terms of attracting young teachers to the state of Florida,” said Commissioner of Education John L. Winn.

“I can’t think of another piece of data more frequently cited in the press and the education world than average teacher salary,” he said last week. “For heaven’s sake, we ought to have an apples-to-apples comparison.”

For example, according to the report, states count teachers differently. Some include anyone who is on the instructional pay scale, while others just teachers in classrooms. Average salary is also defined differently across states, with some including bonuses, extra-duty pay, even parts of fringe benefits, and other states excluding all those.

Not Just the Average

Other problems with getting valid comparisons include inadequate data systems in the states and a collection process that involves little checking, according to the Florida report.

The study recommends that uniform national standards for defining and calculating average teacher pay be set. It further recommends that three levels of teachers’ economic status be required: average salary; average compensation, which would include benefits; and average “market value,” which would consider such factors as retirement contributions by employer, state income tax, and cost of living.

Each of those categories should be reported by higher education degree, says the report, to show how well teachers with a bachelor’s degree fare compared with teachers with advanced degrees.

The differences between such levels can be substantial, figures in the report illustrate. Florida’s average teacher salary in 2004-05 was $41,587, its average compensation was $42,646, and its so-called “market value” was a comparatively whopping $52,416.

Mr. Schneider of the NCES said his agency would not be venturing into the realms that involve gauging tax and cost environments because of the difficulty of doing so fairly. For instance, he asked, if the lack of a state income tax is factored in, should a relatively high sales tax also be considered?

“Our goal is to get good salary data … and good benefits data [for states and some metropolitan areas] in as transparent and defensible way as possible,” he said. If all goes well, he added, states could be asked to report data using conditional definitions and guidelines in the coming school year.

Edward Muir, who heads the AFT’s teacher-salary survey, said he would welcome the success of such an undertaking. “If you get good data and report it,” he said, “there would be some advance in what we know and how we could compare across states.”

But the researcher cautioned that there was no guarantee federal definitions and guidelines alone would produce consistent numbers. “You have to be careful, you have to be patient, and you have to work with the states to get good data,” he said.

Mr. Muir added that the AFT would continue to produce its salary report in any case because the union analyzes its own data in ways that “we might not otherwise be politically able to do.”

Related Tags:

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Top Federal Adviser on Puerto Rico's Schools Declares: 'We Have to Build Trust'
Chris Soto heads an Education Department team providing technical assistance and support for the U.S. territory's public schools.
4 min read
Martin G. Brumbaugh School kindergarten teacher Nydsy Santiago teaches her students under a gazebo at a municipal athletic park in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 4, 2021.
Martin G. Brumbaugh School kindergarten teacher Nydsy Santiago teaches her students under a gazebo at a municipal athletic park in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 4, 2021.
Carlos Giusti/AP
Federal Schools Could Count Nonbinary Students Under Biden Proposal
The Civil Rights Data Collection for this school year could also revive questions about inexperienced teachers and preschool discipline.
6 min read
Image of a form with male and female checkboxes.
iStock/Getty
Federal 'Parents' Bill of Rights' Underscores Furor Over Curriculum and Transparency in Schools
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley's bill highlights how education issues like critical race theory will likely stay in the national political spotlight.
7 min read
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., says "it's time to give control back to parents, not woke bureaucrats."
Patrick Semansky/AP
Federal Opinion It’s Not Just the NSBA That’s Out of Touch. There’s a Bigger Problem
Those who influence educational policy or practice would do well to care about what parents and the public actually want.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty