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New York Teacher Salaries, Retirement Benefits Always a Fight That Requires Legal Advice

An article out of Rochester reports that salaries for teachers vary widely throughout New York state. For instance, salaries in the Rochester area rank at the bottom of the state, while teachers in Westchester and Putnam counties outside New York City rank highest. The disparity between superintendents range from $166,000 to $506,000.

In a separate article, Bloomberg is reporting that a record number of teachers are retiring, which could save money for state taxpayers as older teachers with years of raises move out and new teachers getting their first job move in.Teachers have been battling for decades to earn better salaries. They are consistently underpaid and under-appreciated despite the commitment they have to educating our children. It is easily one of the most important jobs in the country, but it’s not profitable and teachers are paid far less.

Education law in New York can often be a contentious area of practice, as it can apply to student discipline issues, the fairness of class sizes in different schools and teachers’ rights.

The teacher salary story reports that the average salary for teachers in the Teachers’ Retirement System was $57,971 last school year. Salaries vary, officials said, based on cost-of-living estimates, experience and seniority. Also, some teacher’s unions have negotiated lower salaries in order to cut down on healthcare costs.

While there are great disparities among counties — the average annual salaries in Westchester and Putnam counties are around $95,000 per year, while they trend downward to $50,000 in upstate New York — officials said that cost-of-living averages along with competitive salaries in competitive markets are reasons for the difference in salaries.

The report states that 17 percent of school employees — about 40,000 statewide — earn $100,000 or more. About 50 percent earn $60,000 or more. Administrator salaries have come under attack as state officials look for ways to cut the budget. The story states that the retirement system for teachers lost 11,700 through layoffs and attrition.

Bloomberg’s story reports there were 8,400 retirements in 2010-2011, up from 5,500 the year before. Teachers and other public employees have separate pension plans.

Officials estimate that the Baby Boomer generation of teachers is now retiring, which is leaving large gaps in the education system. Employees who are in their 60s are retiring after working for the better part of three decades.

But budget cuts shouldn’t be a constant excuse for underpaying teachers. And there shouldn’t be great disparities when statewide regulations guide all teachers seeking to educate our students and help them be successful as adults. Strong teachers unions are an important step for teachers seeking to get equal rights, but even unions have faced issues in recent years.

Sometimes, legal action is the only way to ensure a person’s rights are upheld. Students and teachers are entitled to equality, whether in salaries or learning opportunities. They shouldn’t be ignored simply because of budget cuts.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides education legal counsel in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.

More Blog Entries:

Great Neck SAT Cheating Scandal Requires Education Law Lawyer: October 31, 2011
Additional Resources:

School salaries vary widely in New York state, by Joseph Spector and John Lahman, Democrat and Chronicle
More retirements by state workers, teachers in NY, by Michael Virtanen, Bloomberg Businessweek