Teacher salary increases lag behind other professions

Beginning teachers saw big jumps

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

Editor’s note: On Town Meeting Day, Williston’s school budget was defeated. School officials have said salaries and benefits – which comprise roughly 74 percent of the school budget – and special education account for most of the increases. Over the coming weeks, the Observer will look at each of these areas in detail in preparation for the school budget vote anticipated in May.


The average increase of local teachers’ salaries from 2000 – 2005 was consistent with or lagged behind other Chittenden County professions requiring college degrees, an Observer staff analysis has found. However, in the last two years, local teachers’ collective salary increases outpaced those of the preceding five years.

From spring 2000 to spring 2005, Champlain Valley Union High School teachers collectively saw average salaries rise 15 percent and Williston public school teachers collectively saw an increase of 20 percent, according to data provided by the Chittenden South Supervisory Union. (Collective increases are not the same as individual increases as different teachers were working each of those years.)

During the same time period, elementary and secondary school teachers throughout the greater Burlington area rose 17 percent, according to Observer calculations. Calculations were based on federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2000 and May 2005 – the most recent data available for the Burlington area for all professions. Elementary and secondary school administrators’ salaries increased roughly 21 percent.

Among other professions in the same time period in the greater Burlington area, health care practitioners overall saw average salaries rise 23 percent; managers saw average salary increases of nearly 25 percent; computer and math-related occupations saw increases on average of 28 percent; and occupations in the life, physical and social sciences saw increases of 35 percent.

“I’m not surprised that you find that teachers’ salaries have lagged behind other professionals with comparable educational credentials, though I don’t know the specific data you’re referencing,” said Michael Long, a teacher at Colchester High School and chief negotiator for the Colchester Education Association. “But that sounds consistent with the data I’ve seen in the past.”

Jobs not requiring college degrees overall saw smaller pay growth for the same time period. Those in installation, maintenance and repair jobs saw salaries rise on average 7.6 percent; administrative support jobs saw roughly 16 percent increases; those in sales overall saw 19 percent increases; and those in production occupations saw a 20 percent increase.

Collective increase grows

The growth in Williston teachers’ collective salaries since 2005 outpaced their increases in the preceding five years. Williston public school teachers collectively saw an increase of 23 percent from the contract ending June 2005 to the contract that ends this year.

CVU High School average teacher salaries collectively increased roughly half that amount, 12.3 percent.

The discrepancy may be that Williston is seeing more experienced teachers hired when others leave, according to a supervisory union official.

“There could have been hiring changes,” said Chittenden South Supervisory Union Human Resources Director Cindy Koenemann-Warren.

When a teacher leaves the district, Koenemann-Warren said, the new teacher who is hired likely has a different level of experience and education, and therefore is paid differently.

“Sometimes it works to the board’s advantage as more senior teachers retire, and sometimes it doesn’t,” she said.

Changes in individual teachers’ educational levels also could change the collective salary increase, Koenemann-Warren said. Teachers with only a bachelor’s degree are paid less than teachers with a master’s degree, for example.

Beginning salaries up

Individual teacher salary increases vary widely over the last seven years (which represents the last three local teachers’ contracts). Two individual CVU High School and Williston teachers with more than 35 years of teaching experience saw salary increases of roughly 28 percent since 2000 – a number that appears consistent with, or slightly behind, growth in other occupations requiring college degrees looking at federal data from the early part of this decade.

By contrast, two teachers with less than four years of teaching experience in 2000 and only a bachelor’s degree saw salary increases of 60 percent and 68 percent over the last seven years. Those teachers pursued graduate credits (one earned a master’s degree) during that time period.

Koenemann-Warren said those increases are typical for that time period for beginning teachers who pursued advanced degrees.

Christopher Hood, a CVU High School teacher and president of the Chittenden South Education Association, the organization representing local teachers and involved in current contract negotiations, said two things explain those increases in beginning teacher salaries.

“One, in our last contract cycle, every (Chittenden South Supervisory Union) school had their own salary schedule,” Hood said. “It was the desire of the CSEA but also the district itself, to unify the district on one salary schedule. Within CSSU we only have one salary schedule now, meaning you’re compensated equally regardless of which school you’re teaching in.”

Chittenden South Supervisory Union includes schools in Charlotte, Shelburne and Hinesburg in addition to CVU High School and Williston schools.

“In addition, in an ongoing effort to continue to make CSSU one of the most attractive places to work in Chittenden County, we were able to raise the initial first year teacher’s salary,” Hood said. “We wanted to be as attractive as other Chittenden County towns to first year teachers. We were behind other Chittenden County schools so we made a concerted effort to raise the starting salary to attract people to our district. And I would point out we have been successful in attracting very qualified candidates who recognize this district as an exceptional place to work and to teach.”

Long, of the Colchester Education Association said, attracting qualified candidates is important.

“I think it’s important to compensate professionals well for the skills and training that they have,” he said. “Surely parents and communities would want to have the best teachers possible in their classrooms. … Just as we wouldn’t want medical care on the cheap, we shouldn’t want education on the cheap, either.”