December 7, 2005
Indiana teachers' pay lags
Salaries for educators fall short of U.S. average, study finds
By Jon Murray
Indiana's 60,000 public school teachers have been losing ground in pay compared with their peers nationwide, a growing gap educators say could hamper the wave of hiring expected as retirements swell over the next decade.
A National Education Association report released this week says salaries for teachers have failed to keep up with inflation in 41 states, including Indiana.
• National Education Association salary survey
During the 2004-05 school year, Hoosier teachers were paid an average salary of $46,591 -- 17th in the nation and a 1.7 percent increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, the cost of living increased 3.1 percent.
Indiana teacher salaries fell short of the national average, $47,808, and the state has been slipping.
"The real problem that underlies it is that we may no longer be able to attract the most qualified people to teaching," said Dan Clark. He is deputy director of the Indiana State Teachers Association, which is affiliated with the national teachers' union. "The trend is not positive here."
In the 2002-03 school year, Indiana's average salary was 98.2 percent of the national average. Last year, it was 97.4 percent of the national average.
The report does not account for teachers' benefits or cost of living differences between states, but several education advocates and officials said it highlights a challenge for Indiana.
Some estimates predict 30 percent of Indiana's teachers will retire by 2015, Clark said. Lower-than-average salaries could complicate efforts to replace them.
"We've always been well-supplied, but there's more competition and more mobility today than ever before," said Suellen Reed, the state's superintendent of public instruction. "If a young person is a science teacher and they can choose making $25,000 in Indiana or making $30,000 working somewhere else . . . they may decide to go somewhere else."
Over time, the salary report says, Indiana teachers' pay has barely kept up with inflation. From 1994 to 2004, Indiana salaries increased 0.9 percent once the cost of living was factored in; nationwide, the increase was 2.9 percent.
Michigan, Illinois and Ohio rank above the national average, while Kentucky is 34th.
Don Hanlin, a Center Grove High School government teacher who has been teaching since 1967, thinks the quality of teacher applicants has gone down over time, because the best candidates often pick jobs that pay better.
"Talented people have so many resources, particularly talented women," he said. "We used to have women who were valedictorians and salutatorians in high school who became teachers, but they're not going into teaching anymore. We're in a much more competitive market now."
Kimberly Williams, 32, a nine-year math veteran who earns about $50,000 at the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School in Indianapolis, said she was not surprised teachers lack the earning potential of some other professions. In Indiana, construction workers make an average of $36,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while professionals in scientific or technical services make an average of $45,000, and company or business managers make an average of $69,000.
"You go into the field knowing that already," Williams said. "You don't do it for the pay. You do it for the love of teaching and knowing you have an impact on kids."
Strict comparisons are difficult with other professions because teachers work nine months of the year. Many take other jobs during the summer, and some work part-time jobs during the school year to supplement their income.
But many also use their time off to earn advanced degrees.
Salaries make up the vast majority of a school district's budget, and Clark said the General Assembly's belt-tightening, which has slowed the growth of school funding, has made it more difficult to give teachers raises.
Also, Clark said, the national recession hit Indiana hard and the recovery has been slow.
The NEA's salary ranking process invites some criticism.
John Ellis, executive director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, said comparisons by state are difficult because teachers' benefits aren't taken into account.
Some states -- such as Michigan, whose average salary of $56,973 ranks fourth -- opt not to participate in Social Security for teachers. As a result, Ellis said, salaries there are higher.
Indiana does have a competitiveness problem, he said. He sees the teacher retirement system, which he said falls short of those in other states, as the main liability. The system is less generous than in some states, and it takes longer for workers to qualify for payouts.
Another issue that clouds the NEA rankings is cost of living differences among states. Indianapolis has the most affordable housing market in the country, according to one recent report, so $46,591 goes further here.
Of the 10 states with the highest average salaries, eight are among the most expensive places to live, including Connecticut and California.
Star reporters Kim L. Hooper and Staci Hupp contributed to this story. Call Star reporter Jon Murray at (317) 444-2710.
Copyright 2005 IndyStar.com. All rights reserved
I know a lot of Indiana teachers. My mother-in-law and father-in-law are both teachers. I like teachers. I think teachers are important and I think it is a job that should be paid a fair wage.
My wife and I have talked about teacher's salary's a lot.
Here is an interesting experiment for you. Go and do this google search and see what you get:
5 of the first 10 hits I get are for teachers which is incredible. There is a lot of research about how much they are paid.
Based on my experience I feel that teachers are OVERPAID. Let me give you some personal examples.
My wife went to college and got a four year degree in International Business. She then spent several years working as both an accountant and a bookkeeper. She went back to school and got an additional certificate in accounting. (My wife has 149 credit college credit hours). She got her license and became a certified public accountant. She spent some time working for three different CPA firms doing various tasks including travelling and doing auditing. Now she runs her own business.
One of her best friends went to college and got a degree in education. Her friend got out of college and became a public school teacher in Indiana. She went back to school and got her Masters Degree. Their entire careers the following has been true:
Both have about the same education level
Both have to have about the same amount of continuing education
Which one has been paid a higher salary EVERY year (We are looking at 14 years)? The teacher. Amazing when you consider:
The teacher has ALWAYS had:
Much better benefits of every kind including retirement, medical, etc.
Has always worked fewer hours. On average the teacher works about 25% less hours.
So you ask, why do the teachers make so much?
There is one main reason. The teachers unions are extremely large and powerful.
Do not get me wrong, teachers should make a good wage. I really do think they should. That being said, keep in mind a teacher works 25% less then most other jobs, has better benefits then almost every comparable job in Indiana, and rarely has to work overtime or holidays. Teachers have a very good deal.
I think the comment about teachers salary's not keeping up with inflation is the funniest. No one's salary' is keeping up with inflation. Most of us work at jobs that are CUTTING benefits (Especially health and retirement). When is the last time your heard a school board propose cutting teacher's benefits or wages because we need to show some compassion for the porperty tax payers because their expenses are going up faster then their income?
Property taxes are projected to increase ABOUT 10% across Indiana this year; almost entirely due to schools. Let's show some compassion for the rest of us...