San Juan School District teachers are some of the top earning teachers in the state. Surprised?
That’s according to a report from the Utah Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization.
The report, Apples to Apples: How Teacher Pay in Utah Stacks Up to the Competition, compares Utah teacher pay to that across the nation, with particular focus on how Utah teacher salaries compare with other teacher salaries in the Mountain States.
The report also breaks out teacher pay by school district. San Juan School District ranks fifth for highest base salary for school districts in the state of Utah, following Park City, Salt Lake City, Kane County, and Murray School Districts. Overall average salaries are also in the top ten for school districts across the state.
“We need to be near the top to recruit and retain teachers,” said San Juan School Superintendent Ron Nielsen. “We need to be above average to stay competitive.
“There are a number of variables that make it difficult to attract teachers here: the remoteness of the area, the limited shopping. There needs to be financial compensation to make up for it.”
The San Juan School District has also made waves for their Quality Teacher Incentive Program (QTIP). The program pays an exceptionally high wage – reportedly as high as $80,000 per year – for approximately one dozen quality lead teachers to work in the schools that need it the most.
In addition, the school district has started utilizing signing and retention bonuses for these schools as well. Neilson said it makes a tremendous difference in the classroom.
“We’ve seen dramatic results,” said Nielson. “These teachers pay a dividend to the school in many ways. They add to discussions, they help solve problems, they mentor other teachers.
“They bring experience and leadership to the school. They help with strategic planning and vision. To keep them is a high priority.”
Other data from the report shows Utah lagging behind the national average salary by more than $12,000. The Utah average teacher salary is $47,604, while national salaries average $60,483.
Though that number is brought up by higher salaries in California and New York, Utah still falls short when compared against similar Mountain States. The average salary for Mountain States is $52,389, a ten percent difference.
Notably, average Utah salaries are lower than those in Arizona, where teacher strikes last year shut down schools for a week before the Arizona legislature passed a bill that would increase teacher salaries by 20 percent over a number of years.
One key finding shows that pay varies widely from district to district. There can be as much as a 40 percent difference for teachers with similar levels of education and experience employed by different school districts.
Another interesting finding is that teachers in 2016 are older and have higher rates of master’s and doctorate degrees than in 2007. In theory, this should equate to more compensation, but it has not.
Comparing teachers with other professionals, Utah teachers earn 73 percent of what similarly credentialed, private sector workers do. This wage gap is one of the reasons teachers leave education.
The report found, on average, private sector jobs have salary increases of eight percent per year, whereas teaching salaries are increased, on average, by five percent per year. Over the life of a career, it can add up to a substantial difference.
Increasing teacher pay works, according to the report, which concludes, “Ensuring that there are highly effective teachers in the classroom is critical to improving educational outcomes for children.
“And an important component of both recruiting and retaining effective teachers is to offer an appropriate level of compensation.”
The Utah legislature and individual school districts are key players in teacher salary increases. Recently, the largest school districts in Salt Lake County increased starting teacher pay above $40,000 to attract top talent.