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The average salaries paid to New Jersey’s public school teachers and administrators rose by roughly 1 percent last year, but school boards have been negotiating contracts that are giving teachers more generous raises.
In the 2018-2019 school year, the average salary for teachers, librarians, guidance counselors, and other non-administrative staff was $72,912, according to an NJ Spotlight analysis of salary data for more than 146,000 professional employees in nearly all public-school districts and charter schools in New Jersey. That was up just 1.1 percent over the previous year.
The average school administrator’s salary rose by 1 percent to $125,827. That includes district superintendents, business administrators, school principals and subject supervisors, among others.
The average salary for an interim or permanent superintendent equaled $160,736, but not every district reported a salary for a chief administrator. The data, provided by the state Department of Education, reflect salaries as of Oct. 15, 2018 and some districts may have been between superintendents on that date.
Last year’s average increases were smaller than those received in 2017-2018, but more in line with the changes seen in the rest of this decade. Average salaries have either risen by less than 2 percent or declined in some years. That’s partly because large numbers of experienced school staffers chose to retire after being forced to make higher health-benefit contributions as a result of the pension and benefits reform law former Gov. Chris Christie signed in 2011.
Many factors drive salary trends
Although the salary increases being negotiated by boards of education have been rising slowly with the improving economy, they are still well below the increases of 4.5 percent or more that were common in the last decade.
Frank Belluscio, deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, said the economy is only one of many factors that influence the salary increases school boards negotiate with teacher unions.
“You cannot always draw a line between the economy and settlement rates,” he said. Belluscio added that changes in state aid, the state’s 2-percent tax-levy cap and individual districts’ educational goals also factor into salary negotiations, as do changes in health-insurance costs. “A higher settlement rate can be offset by reduced costs for employee benefits,” he said.
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The NJSBA reports that teachers in 103 districts started the new year without a new contract. That’s 18 percent of all districts, significantly fewer than the 29 percent districts that went into the 2018-2019 school year still negotiating. When a contract expires, staffers continue to be paid under the terms of the prior agreement.
“It is not unusual for school districts to be at the bargaining table when the school year begins,” Lawrence Feinsod, NJSBA executive director, said in a post on the association’s website. “We can expect to see many districts reach settlement throughout the fall.”
Pay hikes mitigated by concessions
Negotiated increases for this year were mostly accompanied by concessions, according to the school boards association. In 32 percent of contracts, teachers agreed to provide additional hours of instruction or complete more hours of professional development; 47 of new contracts called for staffers to pay more for health coverage, like higher deductibles and copays.
Salaries vary widely throughout the state, with regional high schools and districts in the northeast tending to pay the most, and charter schools and special districts for disabled students, the least.
Northern Valley Regional, which has about 2,500 students in two high schools in Bergen County, continued to have the highest teachers’ salary in the state, hovering just below $100,000. The average paid to 305 non-administrative professionals — $99,291 — was actually slightly below the previous year, likely a reflection of retirements of higher-paid staffers.
Passaic County Vocational and Pascack Valley Regional were the only other districts in the state where the salaries of all non-administrative personnel averaged more than $90,000.
On the other hand, two charter schools — Middlesex Charter School and Classical Academy of Clifton — had average salaries of less than $40,000 for teachers. And the single-school East Newark district’s 20 non-administrative staff were paid an average $42,275 salary each, the lowest for a traditional district.
The average administrator’s salary topped $150,000 in 26 districts around the state and was highest — almost $182,000 — for three administrators at the Trenton Stem-to-Civics charter school.
The figures contained in the DOE database are usually base salaries. The actual amounts received by many staff members are likely higher when stipends for extra work, bonuses, compensation for unused sick days and other additional pay are included. The data may not include all information for some districts, and may contain errors because the DOE does not check it for accuracy.
Still, it is the most complete picture of salaries released by the department.
The table below provides information for all districts and charter schools in the state, with salaries for K-12 and regional high-school districts shown in the map. The database includes salary and other data for more than 9,400 public-school administrators and nearly 137,000 teachers and other professional non-administrative staff who worked in New Jersey last year.