When your negotiating team is at the bargaining table, one of the most prominent points of comparison you will hear the union cite, aside from the settlement rate, is the average teacher’s salary.

The average teacher’s salary is simply the total amount paid to all teachers divided by the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers those salaries are based upon. Therefore, if your salary base were $3,727,500 with 52.5 FTE’s, your average teacher’s salary in your district would be $71,000.

The first problem with this type of comparison is that it does not take into account the experience of those teachers. Using the above example, if the average teacher’s salary in the neighboring district is $78,200, the union’s initial conclusion may be that teachers are better compensated in that district than in yours. However, if the teachers in the neighboring district have an average length of service of 15 years and in your district, the average length of service is 9 years, that experiential difference would account for the difference in pay.

Another problem with comparing average teacher’s salaries is that it also does not take into account the educational attainment of those teachers.  If the majority of your teachers hold bachelor’s degrees, while in the neighboring district, most of the teachers hold master’s degrees, it can have a dramatic effect on the average teacher’s salary because the salaries of those with advanced degrees are higher.

Without knowing a district’s placement of staff on their salary guide, how many years of experience, as well as the educational degrees each teacher holds, the “average salary” is not a useful point of comparison. In fact, the same salary guide can produce very different average salaries based upon these factors.

Comparing salary guides between districts will give you a better view of a district’s salary policy. When doing so, remember to consider the length of the salary guide and any possible longevity pay the district may offer when comparing the maximum salary on the guide.