Adjusted teacher pay lowest in U.S.

The average salary for teachers in Hawai`i saw an overall increase of 9 percent last year over 2001, making it the 17th highest pay in the nation. But when adjusted for inflation, teacher salaries here rank dead last, according to state-by-state reviews by the American Federation of Teachers.

The survey’s results for Hawai`i show an average teacher salary of $44,306. Beginning teachers earned $31,340 a year in 2002, a 7.3 percent bump from the year before. The national average was $44,367 a year, or $30,719 for beginning teachers.

“Thanks to better starting salaries, the shrinking teacher shortage should help reduce class sizes,” said Sandra Feldman, president of the AFT. “But we can’t afford to ignore and lose experienced teachers, whose salaries are not showing much improvement.”

Regionally, Hawai`i ranked second to last among western states, behind California, Alaska, Oregon, and Nevada but ahead of Washington.

And according to the group’s full report, which hits island educators with a $12,000 adjustment for the state’s high cost of living, Hawai`i teachers effectively earn only $31,761, an adjusted salary that ranks it 51st behind 50 states and the District of Columbia, under North and South Dakota.

The cost-of-living adjustment for Hawai`i was based on figures from the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers.

When examining teacher salaries as a percentage of total education expenditures, the AFT ranked Hawai`i 16th, with $485 million of the states $1.2 billion education budget going toward teacher pay. At the top of the list was Tennessee, which invests 43 percent of its $5.1 billion education budget to teacher salaries.

Overall, teacher salary growth is lagging behind the growth in education spending as well as the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, the AFT concluded.

The AFT report was scheduled to be released Friday but was reported by local media yesterday.

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