Governor Robert Bentley has introduced his recommended budget for FY16. The state minimum teacher salary matrix (pictured below) looks the same for FY16 as it did in FY15.
Bottom line: no raise for teachers.
Listening in to Alabama’s legislators debate about public charter schools, one heard lots of talk about fully funding the Foundation Program (the state formula-based funding program that determines how much money each school district receives from the state), and how there wasn’t enough money for essentials like textbooks (though Alabama’s school districts managed to spend $38 million on athletic coaching supplements last year).
Very little has been said about teacher raises this year. The last time public education employees received a raise was in FY14, and that was all of 2%. Many said that raise didn’t even offset the recently-increased cost of health insurance for teachers and other public education employees.
With a renewed discussion emerging about how public education is funded, extra attention will be devoted to compensation over the next few weeks in an attempt to get a better handle on exactly how much Alabama’s taxpayers are paying for teachers and other public education employees to teach and guide our children.
This article will cover average teachers’ salaries by school district, making some comparisons that could be useful.
First, a little context about how teacher salaries are set in Alabama.
The Teachers’ Minimum Salary Schedule
Every year, Alabama’s elected officials approve a budget that includes a minimum salary schedule for public school teachers. Funds for state-earned teacher “units” (based on the number of students enrolled in each grade level) are then sent to school districts to pay teachers’ salaries and benefits.
It’s important to understand that a teacher “unit” costs more than simply a teacher’s salary, though.
The 2015 Budget Fact Book shows the average cost of a teacher unit in FY15 to be $83,789, broken down as follows:
It’s also important to understand that many school districts utilize a salary schedule that is higher than the state minimum, which means any amounts that are paid over and above the salary schedule are paid from local funding. Here are a few examples: Madison City, Vestavia Hills City, and Baldwin County. Benefits are then calculated on that total amount.
Additionally, if a school district chooses to employ more teachers than the state actually funds (which some districts are able to do to keep class sizes low), then that entire cost of a teacher’s salary and benefits is paid with funds from local tax collections.
Click here for the ALSDE’s Guide to State Allocations for 2014-2015. Click here to read how Foundation Program units and other allocations are calculated.
Teachers Salaries Compared to the Folks Who Live in the Districts in which They Teach
There are a lot of ways to look at teacher salaries.
Average teacher salary comparisons are made at the state level, with the National Education Association (NEA) calculating Alabama’s average teacher salary ranking 35th in the 2013-2014 ranking of the states, Table C-11. The NEA rankings don’t take into account variations in cost of living, though.
The Alabama Policy Institute published a paper in 2011 alleging that Alabama teacher pay was 17th highest in the nation after adjusting for experience, cost of living, and other factors.
Looking at teacher salaries compared over time doesn’t tell the whole story, because the entire nation has suffered through a prolonged and wrenching period of lowered salaries and underemployed workers.
One simple lens through which to view teacher salaries is to compare the average teacher salary per district with the median family income in the same geographic area (the school district).
The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey reports the median family income figure by school district (the link takes you to 2009 figures). Figures for 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 are also available.
Median family income and average teacher salaries were adjusted for inflation to reflect 2013 dollars (the method used by the Census Bureau for the American Community Survey.
In just fewer than half of the districts, the average teacher salary was above the median family income within the district in which they taught.
Every comparison method has its flaws. This comparison has its flaws, too.
A district’s average teacher salary is an imperfect measure, as it reflects experience of the teacher workforce nearly as much as it does any other factor. Districts where a higher proportion of teachers hold higher degrees will also have a higher average teacher salary.
The median household income was chosen as a comparison in order to reflect the relative wealth of the folks whose children the teachers are teaching.
This is not a scientific or academic study of teacher salaries, so you won’t see information about statistical significance nor regression analyses.
The purpose here is to allow you to see these figures and have some basis for comparison of teacher salaries within the context of the community surrounding the schools in which our teachers teach.
Next up, we’ll look at what proportion a district’s average teacher salary is of a district’s average principal salary. And how average teacher salaries have grown (or not) since FY09.
Questions? Ask here or on the Facebook page.