Comparing Teacher Compensation: Looking Beyond the Averages

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Simply comparing average teacher salaries for all full-time teachers across states can provide a misleading picture of the relative financial incentives teachers have for working in different states.  In over 90 percent of districts in the United States, teaching salaries are based upon a salary schedule that uses experience and education (degrees or credit hours/courses completed) to determine teacher salary.

Because of these schedules, average teacher salaries are partly a function of the relative age, experience and education level of the teaching corps. States with a relatively young, less educated, and less experienced teaching corps will appear to have relatively lower teacher salaries. Comparing salaries for teachers with similar levels of education and experience reduces variations in salary levels that are simply a result of demographic differences. Utah teachers place near the middle of the mountain states for most categories of education and experience except for the highest salary range.

Like most states, Utah has increased beginning teacher salaries in the last decade more significantly than salaries for veteran teachers with advanced education, perhaps demonstrating a greater concern with recruitment than retention.  However, for both beginning and well-educated veteran teachers, salary increases in Utah have lagged behind five of the other mountain states as well as national trends.

Compared to both the U.S. and the other mountain states, Utah districts are more likely to offer pay incentives aimed at increasing teacher effectiveness or filling teacher shortages.  Over half of all districts in Utah offer incentive pay for teaching in a field with a shortage, the highest of any of the mountain states. Utah and New Mexico teachers are the least likely in the mountain states to earn supplemental pay for extracurricular activities.  On the other hand, Utah ranks 2nd of the mountain states for the percentage of teachers who earn supplemental pay through school sources besides extracurricular activities, such as through the types of incentive pay mentioned above.  Utah teachers are the most likely of the mountain state teachers to earn supplemental pay through another job outside of the school system.

To give a sense of Utah teacher benefits compared to mountain states, Utah Foundation collected retirement benefit information from large districts in Utah and four other mountain states.  These data suggest that Utah districts are similar to districts in other mountain states with respect to district contributions to teacher retirement funds, although Utah is unique in having moved away from a defined benefit plan.

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2 Responses to “Comparing Teacher Compensation: Looking Beyond the Averages”

  1. Steve Kroes

    Melinda, sorry for not replying sooner. We did our sample of Utah districts based partly on picking large districts and also on which districts responded to us in time. We had limited time and couldn’t include all the districts — the point was to compare our sample against large districts sampled from nearby states, not to provide a comprehensive comparison among Utah districts. Sorry we didn’t get your district in that sample.

  2. Melinda

    what about Granite School District that’s what I wanted to see

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