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State teachers earn just below national average, but benefits way above

Wisconsin ranks 20th in the nation in teacher salaries, but is sixth when it comes to teachers' benefits.

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance recently released their findings on how Wisconsin funds its schools and teachers, using figures from 2006.

In their report the alliance noted that Wisconsin spends $5,501 per year, per student on teachers' salaries. That's just slightly below the national average of $5,671.

That amount is also below what Minnesota and Illinois pay on salaries, but more than Iowa and Michigan.

While Wisconsin's teachers earn a little less than the national average, what they get in benefits far exceeds it.

Wisconsin spends $2,781 per student on teachers' benefits. That amount is 51.7 percent higher than the national average.

WisTax notes the reason for this is because of the state's public employee retirement system which does not require an employee contribution.

All neighboring states pay less for teacher's benefits than does Wisconsin.

The report by WisTax was compiled using 2006 figures.

Those figures show that Wisconsin spent $10,190 per student in public schools - 14th in the nation.

And while the state spends more on its teachers than the rest of the nation, it ranks 40th in what it spends on instructional items such as books and supplies.

Wisconsin spent only $364 on instructional items for students compared with the national average of $583. The report did note that education is labor-intensive.

A senior member of the state's largest teachers' union reacted to the report by saying not to blame educators for the high cost of education.

"We feel very strongly their (WisTax) efforts to blame educators for the high cost of education is wrong," said Guy Costello, vice president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

The president of WisTax says his group isn't trying to put the blame on educators, but just reporting the facts.

"I understand that is the standard mantra of any special interest, but the data was federal data and they are what they are" said Todd Berry.

Costello put the blame for the high cost of education on higher costs for benefits.

"Health care costs are expensive for everyone," Costello said.

He noted that because of higher benefits costs, teachers are seeing smaller salary increases.

"We used to be 13th in the level of pay, we are now 20th in the nation," Costello said.

Because of the smaller pay increases Costello said it was getting harder to retain younger teachers.

Berry agreed that younger teachers are getting squeezed because of higher benefits.

"I would agree that younger teachers are harmed the most because they don't need all the benefits," he said.

"The money is going to pay for the benefits of teachers who have been in the system for a long time," Berry added.

Like most states, the report points out that a majority of the state and local budget is spent on education.

In Wisconsin 42 percent of school funding comes from local funds -- primarily property taxes -- according to WisTax.

Just 6 percent of the funding comes from federal sources. Only four other states got less in federal funding.

WisTax is available online at

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