Thursday, July 15, 2004

Texas teachers' pay ranks 30th in nation

By April Castro
The Associated Press

AUSTIN - Teacher salaries in Texas rank significantly lower than the national average and 30th in the country, according to a study by the American Federation of Teachers.

The average pay in Texas was $39,972 in the 2002-03 school year, compared with the national average of $45,771. Texas' ranking did not change from the previous year, despite a 1.9 percent increase in average salaries.

Teachers' groups have pleaded for higher salaries and better health insurance benefits this year as Texas lawmakers grapple with overhauling the school funding system.

Texas teachers would rank even lower if health insurance benefits were considered, said John Cole, vice president of the American Federation of Teachers and president of the Texas Federation of Teachers. Last year, the Legislature cut a $1,000 health care stipend to $500. At the same time, health insurance premiums continued to rise, he said.

Texas employs about 276,000 teachers for 4.3 million students in 1,037 K-12 school districts.

Texas teachers fared slightly better than those in neighboring states: Arkansas ranked 44th; Louisiana, 45th; New Mexico, 46th; and Oklahoma, 50th. The District of Columbia was included in the count; South Dakota ranked last at 51st.

First-year teachers in Texas are in slightly better shape, with average beginning salaries ranking 17th nationally at $31,874.

The American Federation of Teachers, a 1.3 million-member union, gets its financial data from state education departments. The numbers do not take into account other factors, such as cost of living or inflation. The study did not consider teachers' experience, other than first-year teachers.


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ONLINE: American Federation of Teachers, www.aft.org

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