Tuesday, June 8, 1999
Teacher Compensation
CONTACT: Greg A. Fredde, Association Vice President, 972-8814

Utah Teacher Compensation #2
Among Western States

Utah teacher compensation ranks second among seven Western states neighboring Utah, according to a recent survey by the Office of Legislative Fiscal Analyst. “It is time to end the myth that taxpayers are neglecting education in Utah,” said Greg A. Fredde, Vice President of the Utah Taxpayers Association.

According to the report, the average Utah teacher compensation for school year 1996-97 was $43,557 or $2,109 more than the average for the seven neighboring states. Total teacher compensation includes average salary and benefits. “It is clear that, based on this survey, teacher compensation in Utah is competitive with Utah’s neighboring states and is not an obstacle to attracting quality teachers as some organizations have suggested,” said Mr. Fredde.

Utah’s high average adjusted teacher compensation is largely due to two factors. First, the average yearly benefits enjoyed by Utah teachers is generous at $11,690 or $3,001 more than the seven state average. In fact, average yearly benefits for teachers in Utah represent 26.8% of their total compensation, the highest of the eight Western States. The seven state average was 20.0%.

Second, Utah’s relatively low cost of living translates into higher purchasing power when compared to other states. In fact, when adjusted using American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Cost of Living Index, total teacher compensation in Utah in 1996-97 was $45,184, $2,472 more than the seven state average and only $277 less than the first place state Nevada.

The Legislative Fiscal Analyst study is consistent with data from the State Office of Education which shows that the average teacher compensation (salary, benefits, and career ladder salary& benefits) in Utah has increased from $42,528 in 1994-95 to $47,139 in 1997-98. This is an average increase of 3.69% for the past three years. Utah’s average teacher salary also compared favorably with the state’s average annual pay. In 1996,

Utah’s average annual pay was $24,572 for all workers covered by Unemployment Insurance. The average teacher salary of $31,867 is 29.7% higher Utah’s average annual pay.

Despite Utah’s favorable ranking for teacher compensation among the Western states, some educators continue to express growing dissatisfaction with a perceived lack of additional funding. Dramatic increases in health insurance premiums–as high as 88%–have forced many districts to restructure existing health plans and provide smaller cost of living adjustments for school employees. “Despite these pressures, over half of Utah’s 40 school districts have indicated that they intend to provide their employees with a cost of living adjustment ranging from 1% to 3.2%,” Mr. Fredde said.

In addition, in most districts, teachers will receive their annual “step & lane adjustments” which reward teachers for longevity and additional education, Mr. Fredde said. For example, a teacher who goes from step 5 to step 6 would receive, on average, an additional 4.1% pay increase, or an average of $1,077. Moreover, a teacher at step 5 who received a “lane adjustment” by passing an additional 30 hours of college credit would receive, on average, an additional 4.12% pay increase, or an average of $1,083, Mr. Fredde noted.

“Utahns continue to be extremely generous with their tax dollars, recognizing the important role excellent teachers have in providing a quality education for Utah’s children,” said Mr. Fredde. “As a result of Utah’s large student population, Utah appears to struggle when you measure spending on a per pupil basis; however, Utahns spend more of their personal income on education than all but a handful of states,” he continued. In fact, Utahns spend more of their personal income on elementary and secondary education than all but three other states, nearly 29% more than the national average. In FY 2000, public education expenditures–$2.13 billion–accounted for 32% of the entire state budget, compared to 20% for Health & Human Services and 14% for Transportation.

In addition to state funding, over half of all property taxes collected in Utah–over $583 million in FY 1997-98–goes to fund elementary and secondary education. “Between 1992-1998, voters approved over $1.1 billion in capital facilities bonds alone,” Mr. Fredde noted. This year alone, half of Utah’s 40 school districts are requesting tax increases totaling nearly $40 million. “To suggest or insinuate that education is not a priority in Utah is an insult to taxpayers who, year in and year out, contribute more of their hard earned income to fund education than any other state or local function. It is time to give Utah taxpayers the credit they deserve for their commitment to educating children in Utah.”

Despite a strong commitment by taxpayers, Utah still ranks at the bottom in per pupil expenditures. Utah’s per pupil spending of $3,787 compares with the national per pupil spending average of $6,131. Howmuch would it cost to spend an amount equal to the national per pupil expenditure? “In order to reach the national average, Utah would have to increase its educational spending by $1.12 billion, the equivalent ofdoubling current property tax revenues or nearly doubling current state individual income tax revenues,” Mr. Fredde said.

“Notwithstanding this generosity and the service of some of this nation’s best educators,” Mr. Fredde continued, “Utah’s educational system continues to struggle and is in need of structural reform which will better focus current revenues and resources on classroom performance,” Mr. Fredde said. “School reform discussions that begin with the premise that constraints on expenditures are the most serious roadblock to improving student performance are, at best misguided, and at worst, a destructive distraction from the root of Utah’s educational problems,” Mr. Fredde concluded.

Average Teacher Compensation

Eight State Comparison Adjusted by Cost of Living Index

Adjusted Salaries Plus Benefits1





% Change



























New Mexico














State Avg (excl. Utah).




1Average salary (includes Career Ladder Program money) and benefits adjusted using the American Federation of Teachers Interstate Cost of Living Index.

Source: Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst