Back-to-School 101: Vt. teacher salaries - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Back-to-School 101: Vt. teacher salaries

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The South Burlington school district offers an average teacher wage of $72,000, the highest mark in the state according to the Agency of Education.

Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union, which includes schools like Montgomery Elementary, has the lowest average figure: just less than $44,000 a year.

"The numbers speak for themselves. We've tried hard to bring our teacher pay up so that we'll be competitive with areas around us," said Jay Nichols, the Franklin Northeast superintendent.

Nichols says higher teacher pay rarely correlates with student test results, but can leave areas like his as training grounds for wealthier areas. A new agreement is set to raise starting wages in the union to $35,000, up from a low of $29,000. But Nichols says with statewide school funding already in place, a statewide teachers' contract could level the playing field, while still accounting for differences in cost-of-living.

"If Vermont kids are all Vermont kids, then maybe we should have all Vermont teachers paid equally," Nichols said.

"Burlington does have unique challenges that our districts around us don't have and yet the pay was not equitable," said Jeanne Collins, the Burlington Schools superintendent.

Burlington paid an average salary of $63,000 to teachers last year, but that ranked near the bottom for Chittenden County which has the highest salaries in the state. A new agreement pegs pay to the middle of the pack, with anticipated annual raises of about 4 percent a year over three years.

Collins says it's a delicate balance between what should be spent on students and their teachers.

"Staying in the middle of the middle was viewed on both sides as being fiscally responsible and yet acknowledging we need to be competitive with our colleagues," Collins said.

"There are multiple studies that show that good working conditions lead to good learning conditions, and good learning conditions help children to achieve," said Martha Allen of the Vermont NEA.

The average teachers' wage, according to the Vermont Department of Labor, is about $6,000 higher than workers in general. But Allen says despite improvement, pay remains too low. She adds that high-earners in densely populated areas skew the average, hiding those struggling to make ends meet. But she says a statewide contract will not solve the problem, nor would mandating that all districts have identical health care compensation schemes.

"I don't think stripping communities of their local control is the answer to paying teachers better salaries," Allen said.

Allen says economic development is the key to better salaries, because Vermont communities are willing to pay for education, if they have the money.

The Vermont Department of Labor and the Vermont Agency of Education calculate wage figures slightly differently. The Agency of Education has the average teacher salary at $52,000; that's $3,000 higher than the Department of Labor.

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