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July 16, 2004
Teachers' Union Says Health Costs Are Keeping Pay Stagnant

The average salary for a. U.S. teacher was $45,771 in 2002-03, up 3.3 percent from the previous year, according to new report from the American Federation of Teachers.

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Similarly, the average starting salary--$29,564--represented a 3.2 percent increase from the year before.

But those increases were offset by a 13 percent spike in premiums paid for health insurance, according to the union, which cited the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for its source on the insurance number.

"Exorbitant health insurance costs are taking an intolerable bite out of already inadequate teacher salaries," said AFT Secretary-Treasurer Edward J. McElroy. "Even as teachers are being asked to do more, compensation packages are nothing short of insulting and fail to take account of growing health care and other out-of-pocket costs to teachers."

The AFT also cited a Educational Research Service finding that superintendents' average salaries reach as much as four times the size of teachers' average pay.

"States and school districts are crying poverty when it comes to teachers' pay, yet somehow find money for extravagant administrator salaries. Strong leadership without a quality teaching force won't improve education," McElroy said.

Average teacher salaries by state

California had the nation's highest average salary in 2002-03, at $55,693. States joining California in the top tier were Michigan, at $54,020; Connecticut, at $53,962; New Jersey, at $53,872; and the District of Columbia, at $53,194.

South Dakota had the lowest average salary in 2002-03, at $32,414. The other states in the bottom tier were Montana, at $35,754; Mississippi, at $35,135; North Dakota, at $33,869; and Oklahoma, at $33,277. Also in the lowest tier were the Virgin Islands, at $34,764; Guam at $34,738; and Puerto Rico, at $22,164.

Average beginning teacher salaries. Alaska had the highest average beginning salary in 2002-03, at $37,401. States joining Alaska in the top tier were New Jersey, at $35,673; District of Columbia, at $35,260; New York, at $35,259; and California, at $34,805.

Montana had the lowest average beginning salary in 2002-03, at $23,052. The other states in the bottom tier were Maine, at $24,631; South Dakota, at $24,311; North Dakota, at $23,591; and Arizona, at $23,548.

Adobe PDF versions of selected tables can be downloaded here:

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