Despite a 7 percent average increase in salaries for the current school year, Utah teachers remained 46th in rankings with other states, according to figures released by the National Education Association.

The 1990-91 increase was the largest in several years for Utah's teachers. Upcoming district negotiations are likely to add much smaller percentages to teacher salary tables for 1991-92. The 1991 Legislature provided a smaller increase in the weighted pupil unit - the state's per-pupil expenditure - and preliminary indications are that districts will have only 1 percent to 3 percent to offer in bargaining.The $33,015 average teacher salary in the United States outstrips Utah's average of $25,415 by $7,600 or approximately 23 percent, the NEA figures show.

The Utah picture, however, improves somewhat when career-ladder money is added. The incentive money, for extra days and extra work, adds an average $1,845 to Utah teacher salaries. Some teachers get more, some less.

With the career-ladder money factored in, Utah's average rises to $27,260, bringing the state to 39th in the rankings, said Jim Eldredge, director of legislative and bargaining services for the Utah Education Association.

Eldredge said the figures released by the NEA are preliminary and include some estimated state figures. The data will become more firm in a later report, he said.

"We are disappointed that we have not made greater progress, and we're committed to working toward closing the disparity. We hope the Legislature and governor will work with us to close the gap," said the UEA official. Utah was 46th in last year's rankings as well.

Neighboring Idaho was just above Utah in the rankings at 45th.

Utah teacher salaries don't reflect some benefits that would increase the averages if they were included, said Allan Witt, executive director of the Utah Foundation. For instance, Utah's teachers receive a state-paid retirement benefit that isn't available to teachers in all states.

Utah salaries overall are an estimated 14 percent below national averages, and the cost of living is 8 percent to 10 percent less, Witt said.

Another factor that affects teacher statistics in Utah is a younger teacher population due to an early retirement option that saw about 1,800 teachers leave the field several years ago. The state also is growing, so school districts are hiring teachers at the low end of salary scales, while many other states have more teachers at the high end of the scales, raising their averages.

How states rank

The first column shows the average salary in 1990-91, the second the 1989-90 average. The third column shows the percent change, and the last column shows the rank among the 50 states and District of Columbia.

Alaska 43,861 43,153 1.6 1

Conn. 43,847 40,461 8.4 2

D.C. 42,288 37,950 11.4 3

N.Y. 41,600 38,925 6.9 4

Calif. 39,598 37,998 4.2 5

Idaho 25,485 23,861 6.8 45

Utah 25,415 23,686 7.3 46

Okla. 24,649 23,070 6.8 47

Miss. 24,443 24,364 0.3 48

N.D. 23,578 23,016 2.4 49

Ark. 23,040 22,352 3.1 50

S.D. 22,363 21,300 5.0 51

Source: National Education Association