The average salary of a teacher in Alaska increased this school year, but continues to slip compared to pay elsewhere. The increase is the first after four years of decline, according to a report from the Association of Alaska School Boards.
The average salary, excluding benefits, rose from $46,170 last year to $48,101 during the current school year. In contrast, the average salary during the 1995-96 school year was $49,148.
The increase comes at a time when state policy makers are considering new ways to attract and retain quality teachers in Alaska in face of a shortage of teachers and principals. High teacher salaries have traditionally attracted teachers to Alaska, a state that does not graduate enough student teachers on its own to fill the state's needs, according to the report.
Six years ago, the state had the highest average teacher salary in the nation, not taking cost of living into account. The state ranked seventh during the 1998-99 school year, the most recent for which national numbers are available. Connecticut, which paid $51,584 annually on average, ranked first. The national average was $40,582.
The AASB cautioned that averages do not necessarily reflect raises to individual teachers. The decline in Alaska teacher pay in the late 1990s reflected high numbers of senior teachers opting for retirement incentive programs and districts replacing them with lower-paid, younger staff.
The AASB report also showed a slight decline in average class sizes. The average ratio of pupils to teachers statewide was 15.21-to-1.
It also showed that insurance costs, driven by increased medical premiums, continue to escalate for school districts. The average insurance costs per teacher are $7,521, compared to $5,779 during the 1997-98 school year.
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