Chapter 6: Administrator pay vs. teacher pay
Teachers get fewer apples from students these days, but their paychecks now more than compensate for the loss.
Between 1998 and 2006, the average teacher pay in 94 suburban school districts grew from $46,883 to $59,986, an increase of 28 percent.
During that period, the rate of inflation grew 22 percent.
Administrators make out much better than teachers, and their salaries have increased at a faster clip.
In 2006, the average administrator in the 94 Herald districts made $110,747, compared with $81,023 in 1998, a 37 percent bump.
The typical teacher works nine months a year. Administrators generally work year-round.
When reporting average pay, the Illinois State Board of Education cites statistics reported to the state retirement system, not just base pay.
The retirement figures include salary plus summer school and coaching stipends, reimbursements for unused sick and vacation days and pension contributions.
They do not include health, life, dental or disability insurance; tuition reimbursements; car and housing allowances; or moving expenses. Teachers rarely receive cash for housing, cars or moving, but some top-paid administrators do.
In this chapter, we'll provide context to the average salary figures published by the state. Like most data on public schools, the numbers tell only part of the story.
Teacher pay varies
In the suburbs, teacher salaries vary greatly.
In 2005-06, the average salary for a teacher in Illinois was $56,691. Again, that figure includes more than just base salary but excludes some costly benefits.
The average teacher in the 94 suburban Herald districts made $60,000.
That same year, the average teacher in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 made $84,000, the highest average in the suburbs.
The District 211 teacher made twice what the average teacher made in Emmons Elementary District 33, which reported the lowest average salary in the suburbs at $42,455.
Teachers in elementary districts historically make less than high school teachers.
In 2005-06, the average suburban elementary teacher made $56,532.
The average pay for a teacher in a unit district, one covering kindergarten through high school, was $58,657.
The average high school teacher made $73,540.
That same year, five of the 94 districts registered average teacher salaries greater than $80,000. Eleven had average salaries less than $50,000.
Administrator pay also varies widely.
In 2005-06, the average salary of an administrator in Illinois was $100,570.
In the 94 suburban Herald districts, the typical administrator made $110,765 -- $50,000 more than the average teacher.
That same year, the average administrator in Lincolnshire-Prairie Elementary District 103 made $151,145, the highest average in the suburbs.
The Lincolnshire administrator made almost twice what the average administrator made in Aurora West Unit District 129, which reported the lowest average administrator pay in the suburbs, at $80,035.
As with teachers, administrators at elementary districts historically make less than those at high school districts.
In 2005-06, the average suburban elementary administrator made $111,078.
The average pay for an administrator in a unit district was less -- coming in at $100,270.
The average high school administrator made $122,046.
Some large gulfs
In some districts, the difference between administrator and teacher pay is particularly prominent.
In Grass Lake 36, for example, the average administrator made $136,000 in 2006 -- $90,000 more than the average teacher in the district. Administrator pay in that district rose 119 percent between 1998 and 2006, while teacher pay increased by just 28 percent.
The state recently has passed laws to discourage districts from paying administrators like corporate CEOs, while paying teachers like public employees.
The laws are designed to keep administrative pay in line with -- though not identical to -- teacher pay.
For example, districts now pay a penalty if they grant superintendents sick days in excess of what teachers receive. The law was introduced after districts began giving administrators dozens -- or hundreds -- of extra sick days, which could be cashed in for pension credits.
The per-hour rate
Teachers often complain that other professionals out-earn them.
It depends on what measure you use.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average teacher works 36.5 hours a week. That includes paid lunch and rest periods, as well as prep and grading time during the school day.
About three-quarters of teachers work nine or 10 months a year, with almost all of the rest working eight months, according to the labor statistics.
Most white-collar workers, excluding teachers, work year-round, at least 40 hours a week.
If calculated at an hourly rate, then, teacher pay ranks above many white-collar professions.
Factoring in summer holiday and the length of the school day, the typical full-time public elementary teacher makes $34.36 per hour and the typical full-time public secondary teacher makes $33.38 an hour, according to the labor department.
Though high school teachers typically make more than elementary teachers, they also work more hours, lowering their hourly rate, according to labor officials.
To compare, the average white-collar worker who does managerial, executive or administrative work makes $33.69 an hour.
Here's how teacher pay, according to the department of labor, stacks up to other common white-collar occupations:
• Doctors, $62.52 an hour.
• Physicists and astronomers, $35.12 an hour.
• Public elementary school teacher, $34.36 an hour.
• Economists, $33.85 an hour.
• Public high school teacher, $33.38 an hour
• Mechanical engineers, $31.88 an hour.
• Psychologists, $30.27 an hour.
• Architects, $30.23 an hour.
• Registered nurses, $28.15 an hour.
• Editors and reporters, $25.68 an hour.
In previous chapters, we've established that classroom costs generally account for about half of all money schools collect.
Still, payments to teachers make up a large chunk of those costs -- and encompass far more than just teachers' base salary.
About two-thirds of districts across the state pick up at least a portion of teachers' state-mandated contribution to their own pension. The contribution can tack an additional 10 percent onto teacher earnings.
In Elgin Area School District U-46, for example, the district paid about $8,500 per teacher in 2007 to the state retirement fund.
Escalating, generous employee health benefits --identified in a nationwide survey of school business officials as the most pressing financial concern facing schools -- also balloon payments to teachers.
Statewide, about 85 percent of districts pay for some or all of teachers' hospitalization insurance; 52 percent pay all or part of prescription drug coverage; and 72 percent pay all or part of life insurance.
On average, those districts paid about 90 percent of the premium on the insurance plans.
Administrators also receive generous health benefits. But superintendents, as we'll see next week, really can cook up some creative perks.
Next week: Super pay.