By Colleen O'Dea, NJ Spotlight
The average New Jersey public school teacher earned $67,412 last year, an increase of less than 1 percent over the prior year.
That small pay hike ($356 on average) reflects continuing poor economic conditions and the relatively tight 2 percent cap on tax increases imposed by the state.
The average salary for non-administrative professional staff -- including teachers, librarians, counselors, and others -- was up nearly 6 percent over the 2009-10 average of $63,632, according to an analysis of the New Jersey Department of Education’s certificated staff databases.
The database lists the base salary, degree, experience, job titles, and other information for every professional school staffer in the state. Teachers and others may actually receive more in total pay if they get a stipend for coaching or other activities. They also may be paid extra for unused time off or for declining health insurance.
Between 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, a number of teachers in different districts agreed to a pay freeze. Voters in April 2010 rejected a near-record number of budgets -- 58.4 percent -- at least partly in response to a campaign by Gov. Chris Christie against the spending plans. The following year, just two of 10 budgets were rejected. This past spring, 88 percent of budgets passed, though only 70 districts held votes. A change in the law permits districts that stay below the cap not to put their budgets on the ballot.
According to the New Jersey School Boards Association, the average teacher contract settlement in 2011-2012 was 3.2 percent; for the new year, that is down to 2.4 percent. And the average salary increase for contracts settled since January 2011 is less than 2.2 percent.
“Settlement rates continue their downward trend due to the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap, the slow economy, and local school board concerns about property tax burdens,” said Marie S. Bilik, NJSBA executive director.
The average teacher in New Jersey last year had less than 13 years of experience. Little more than half of the teachers possessed a bachelor’s degree, while about 46 percent had a master’s degree.
In about a third of the districts, the highest paid professional whose primary responsibility was not administrative earned more than $100,000. At least some of these are guidance counselors working 12 months, instead of the 10 that the typical teacher works. Some also have some part-time administrative duties, for instance, serving as a subject supervisor.
The highest salary paid, at $162,599, was for a 12-month position as school psychologist at the Hudson County School of Technology. This professional had a master’s degree and 32 years of experience.
In contrast, the state’s longest-tenured teacher was an English as a Second Language expert in a Newark elementary school who had a doctorate and made $103,159 after 56 years of teaching.
New Jersey also boasts a an 84-year old Union City middle school teacher earning $111,600 after 40 years.