Heavy hiring of new teachers, who typically get lower salaries, skews Utah statistics on how much the state's teachers make in comparisons with peers, the Utah Taxpayers Association says.
The association said recent reports by the National Education Association, which rank Utah 37th in teacher salaries, are misleading."The figures, which are supposed to compare the relative earnings of public school teachers in 50 states, don't take into account several factors that have skewed Utah's average teacher salary downward," said Howard Stephenson, UTA spokesman.
Utah's early retirement plan recently saw 1,000 of its highest paid educators taken off payrolls - about 6 percent of the entire teaching staff. New teachers replaced the majority of these, dropping the salary average, Stephenson said.
Utah's high birthrate creates more demand for new teachers, as well, he said.
The NEA figures also did not reflect Utah's career ladder compensation for teachers. The teachers receive an average $1,700-$1,900 for meeting career ladder guidelines, Stephenson said.
The report also did not consider those teachers involved in year-round or extended schedules.
"We feel this failure to report this additional money seriously understates Utah's average teacher salaries," he said. "When all these factors are taken into consideration, we feel Utah's teacher salaries compare very favorably with other states."
Agencies that look at salaries should compare salary schedules, not just averages, to arrive at fair comparisons, the watchdog organization said.
Lowell Baum, executive of the Utah Education Association, said UTA did not take several factors into consideration in its assessment of teacher salaries.
For several years, Utah teachers have had little or no increase in their salaries, Baum said, which contributes to their slide in the national averages.
The association is now including career ladder money in its computations of teacher salaries and this will be reflected in future statistics. However, he said, it is not clear that other states are doing so, which would further skew comparisons.
Utah may fall still further in the national rankings if no increases are granted to teachers this year, Baum said.