Big newspapers, thankfully, still have the resources to data-heavy stories, and that’s just what The Star Ledger has done over the past few days on public school teacher salaries in New Jersey. Teacher compensation has received wide attention lately because of Gov. Chris Christie’s call for a freeze on teacher salaries to close school budget gaps. Verona did not seek a teacher salary freeze when it was forced to cut $1.4 million from its planned budget this year.
New Jersey’s teachers are the fourth-highest-paid in the U.S., behind those of California, New York and Connecticut. But the average pay in the Garden State is $63,154 and more than half of New Jersey’s teachers earn between $40,000 to $60,000. The median pay statewide is $57,467 a year. The Star Ledger report is based on publicly available data from the state Department of Education for the 2008-2009 school year.
In Verona, the newspaper’s data shows the median pay to be $62,692. That is on par with Glen Ridge, which has the same socioeconomic ranking under the state’s district factor grouping rating system. Verona salaries are above the median salaries in Cedar Grove and Caldwell/West Caldwell, also so-called I-class schools, and below those of three other I-class districts: Roseland, West Essex Regional and Livingston.
It is not clear whether the newspaper separated teachers with supervisory roles from those without to get its overall averages and the salary data it used does not completely reflect the supervisory duties that some Verona classroom teachers have. But according to the database, the salary of the highest-paid non-administrator in Verona $97,441; the lowest teacher salary for the 2008-2009 year was $31,389.
The Star Ledger’s report notes that pay for school administrators is higher than that for teachers. The median salary for full-time New Jersey school administrators is $113,083. The highest administrative salary in Verona was $132,874 for the 2008-2009 school year. Gov. Christie has not targeted administrators in his salary freeze plan.
But the Star Ledger also noted that some public sector workers earn far more than teachers. The average base salary of a New Jersey police department employee is $75,400 statewide, while firefighters make $69,620. Both are the highest-paid in the country. Verona has a volunteer fire department and data for police salaries here was not available. The newspaper also reported that data from Rutgers University shows, however, that when private- and public-sector employees with the same educational level, experience and work schedule are compared, private-sector workers make 11% more in wages and 5% more in total compensation than public workers.