Benefits outpace salaries in growth of instructional compensation costs

Print More

While Connecticut teachers and aides have seen their compensation inch upward over two decades, their salaries alone have lost ground relative to inflation.

That’s because employer spending on benefits, including retirement and health insurance, has grown as slice of overall compensation costs.

From 1991 to 2011, total employer spending on educators’ benefits grew 104 percent nationwide (from $37 to $75 billion), while spending on their salaries increased only 42 percent (from $150 billion to $213 billion), according to a June report by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. (All of those numbers, and the rest of the numbers in this article, are in 2011 inflation-adjusted dollars. The report includes data on teachers and aides, but not administrators.)

Connecticut saw a similar trend.

In Connecticut, spending on educator benefits nearly doubled — increasing 90 percent from around $761 million to $1.45 billion — while salary spending rose only 36 percent from $2.6 billion to $3.6 billion.

Looking at the same data on a per-educator level, spending on Connecticut instructional staff salaries was $66,171 in 1991, while benefits cost $19,058. By 2011, that had shifted to $62,031 (down 7 percent) in salary costs and $24,940 in benefits (up 30 percent).

Nationwide salaries did not decline over the same period. Salaries per-educator grew 5 percent from $52,704 in 1991 to $55,807 in 2011, but spending on benefits grew at a much faster 51 percent, from $12,988 to $19,740.

One of the reasons Connecticut’s per-educator compensation costs are changing in a different way than schools nationwide may be that Connecticut schools added typically lower-paid teacher’s aides at a faster rate than schools nationwide, as Trend CT reported Aug. 1. In 1991,  aides made up 14 percent of instructional staff in schools nationwide and in Connecticut, but by 2011, 25 percent of instructional staff in Connecticut were aides, compared with about 18 percent nationwide.

About the data

The NCES report and Trend CT’s analysis are based on an annual survey of states’ education departments. There are separate data sets for the financial topics, such as compensation expenditures, and non-financial topics, such as the count of aides and teachers.

The same data was used in an Aug. 1 Trend CT story to the effect that Connecticut schools have increased the proportion of aides to teachers at a faster rate than schools nationwide.

Benefits are defined in the financial data glossary here as “Expenditures (200) made in addition to gross salary that are not paid directly to employees. Employee benefits include amounts paid by, or on behalf of, an LEA for retirement contributions, health insurance, Social Security contributions, unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation, tuition reimbursements, and other employee benefits.”

Check our work

The analysis for this story is available on GitHub here. We encourage those who are able and inclined to check our work and use it as a basis for their own analysis.

What do you think?