Four of the 10 school districts with the highest median teacher salaries in New Jersey this year are in Atlantic and Cape May counties, according to data included in the Taxpayer Guide to Education Spending released last week by the state Department of Education.
The four are Margate, ranked fourth at $91,045; Brigantine, fifth, at $89,900; Ocean City, seventh, at $89,036; and Atlantic City, 10th, at $88,318.
The highest median teacher salary in the state is in the Northern Valley Regional district in Bergen County, at $105,650. The lowest is at the Red Bank and Jersey City Global charter schools, at $42,000.
Superintendents in both Margate and Brigantine said their high median reflects the longevity of their teaching staff. Shrinking enrollment has meant teachers who retired have not been replaced by new teachers at the lower starting salaries, which would lower the median.
“Our teachers have been here an average of 20 years,” said Brigantine Superintendent Brian Pruitt. “When you have a veteran staff, most are at the top of the pay scale.”
Layoffs can also drive up the median salary, since cuts are made from the bottom due to last-in, first-out policies.
After the Atlantic City School District cut more than 100 teaching positions in 2015-16, the median teacher salary rose to second highest in the state, at $94,135. The median dropped this year as some teachers retired and some new hires were brought in.
Mullica Township is at the lower end of the scale, with a median salary of $53,588. Superintendent Andrew Weber said they have a large number of nontenured staff, but he expects the median to increase next year due to a reduction in force of nontenured staff caused by budget cuts.
Salary guides play a role in overall salaries. Mullica has a starting salary of just over $52,000.
Atlantic City’s starting salary in 2017-18 will be $52,227, while Margate’s will be $59,500. Both have salary guides that take 15 steps to get to the maximum, but in Margate, that maximum salary in 2017-18 will be $90,145 for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree, while in Atlantic City the maximum will be $95,920.
Longevity bonuses also can increase top salaries, and teachers get increases for earning more degrees, which can drive top salaries to more than $100,000.
Charter schools, which are often newer, have higher rates of teacher turnover and are not unionized, have the lowest salaries. Of the districts with the lowest median salaries, 20 of 21 are charter schools, all paying between $42,000 and $48,000 per year.
While salaries vary widely across the state, the New Jersey Education Association has been fighting for $50,000 minimum salaries for new teachers statewide. This year, at least 376 districts, more than half, pay entry-level teachers at least $50,000, according to NJEA data.
This year, four districts, Freehold Regional in Monmouth County and Rahway, Union Township and Westfield in Union County, have starting salaries of at least $60,000. Westfield has the highest starting salary at $62,960, according to NJEA research.