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Until 2008, New Jersey was a comparatively lucrative state for teachers.According to an analysis by the “Star-Ledger,” teachers in New Jersey earned more than those in 46 other states, lagging behind only Connecticut, New York and California. But that can be deceptive because the state government does not set teacher steps for salary increases. Districts negotiate their pay scales with local unions, so some areas in New Jersey pay far better than others, and some school districts lag behind those in other states.
Definition and Variables
A step is a year of experience. Each additional year a teacher works, he can expect a raise. But this correlates with his level of education. Each school district has a grid of steps, based on years of service with incremental increases for each step based on whether he has earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree or a Ph.D. Talent and skill do not factor in, and teachers don’t earn raises on a merit basis.
Correlation to Salary
During the 2007-2008 school year, a teacher in Patterson who had worked for the district for five years and who had a bachelor’s degree earned $49,165 annually. With a master’s degree, that jumped to $53,565. According to the “Star-Ledger,” the highest paying district in the 2008-2009 school year was Ocean City. Teachers there with 17 steps and a master’s degree earned a median salary of $82,801, so half of them earned more than that and half of them earned less. The majority of the teachers in Ocean City hold master’s degrees. The lowest paying district was Elmer, where five steps with a bachelor’s degree earned $41,033. All of the teachers in Elmer held bachelor’s degrees in that year.
New Jersey Averages
The steps averaged out to a teacher salary of $63,154 in New Jersey in the 2008-2009 school year, the last year for which statistics were available as of July 2011. But the median salary among districts can vary by as much as $18,000 per year due to negotiations with different school boards. Some of the wealthiest municipalities pay the least, and some poor districts pay more, depending on isolated issues within each.
When Gov. Chris Christie took office in January 2010 and tackled New Jersey’s budget deficit, he called upon the state’s teachers to accept a pay freeze and asked them to contribute to their health insurance benefits. The New Jersey Education Association resisted and asof July 2011, the issue was unresolved. If Gov. Christie’s initiatives are successful, teachers would remain at a step for one year without an increase in salary. However, after that “frozen” year, they would continue to earn pay increases based on their time of service and education level.
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Beverly Bird has been writing professionally for over 30 years and is the author of more than 30 novels. She has worked as a paralegal and offers community leadership programs in areas of personal finance.