ALBANY -- The number of educators in New York is down nearly 15,000 positions over the past seven years, while salaries are up 10 percent over that stretch, new state records show.
The average salary for educators in New York last year was $64,513, a nearly 4 percent increase compared to the previous year and an increase of almost 12 percent over five years, records reviewed by the USA Today Network's Albany Bureau from state Teachers Retirement System showed.
The salary growth comes as the number of educators -- which includes administrators, teachers and support staff -- has been in decline, down almost six percent since the 2010-11 school year, the records showed.
DATABASE: Educators' salaries in NYS
DATABASE: Teacher Pensions in NYS
DATABASE: State Employees Salaries
The figures are consistent with recent trends and other state data: Fewer staff in New York schools have meant a higher average salary. The higher salaries, school officials said, is in part through yearly raises of about 2 percent or 3 percent and comes after some years during the recession of no raises and staff cuts.
"We did go through a period where school districts were eliminating teaching positions and not filling them, and, if nothing else changed, you would expect the average salary would go up under those circumstances," said Robert Lowry, deputy director of the state Council of School Superintendents.
The number of educators earning $100,000 or more grew again, up 4.5 percent between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal year, which ended June 30, and up 22 percent over five years, the records showed.
More than 55,000 educators earned the top salaries last year, compared to fewer than 40,000 in 2010-11 year.
So last year, more than one-in-five educators had gross pay of $100,00 or more, the records showed.
The average salary in the public schools outside New York City depended on their location.
Westchester County had the highest average salary in the state at nearly $95,000, followed by Nassau County at $89,000 and Putnam County at $87,000. Rockland County ranked fifth behind Suffolk County at $85,000.
The data included all full and part-time workers in the pension system.
Downstate districts are going to have higher salaries because of the higher cost of living, said Lisa Davis, executive director at Westchester Putnam School Board Association.
She pointed to a state report in February that showed when regional cost differences are factored in, the lower Hudson Valley spends on average about the same as other regions of the state.
"What does it cost to live? That’s the salary piece," she explained, adding that a district with a higher salary average may also be the result of teachers staying in the district, a sign of a strong school community.
"If a district is higher on average, that probably means people are staying," Davis said.
The highest paid public school official in the last fiscal year was Kelly Fallon, the former superintendent in the Half Hollow Hills schools on Long Island. Fallon, who retired at the end of the school year, earned $398,000.
Locally, Harrison superintendent Louis Wool ranked third among public school officials in the state, earning $371,060 last school year, the records showed.
The salaries have their critics.
In Westchester, 55 percent of teachers and administrators were paid more than $100,000, the most of any county, compared to 49 percent of those on Long Island, said The Empire Center, an Albany-based fiscally conservative group that analyzes public salaries.
The group said the number of educators collecting six-figure pay has nearly doubled—from 32,914 to 54,539—since it started keeping track of the the salary nearly a decade ago, saying increases are in part due to union contracts.
"With enrollments declining in most districts, they’ve been hiring fewer teachers at lower starting salaries, which would pull down the average," said E.J. McMahon, the group's founder.
"The remaining teachers and administrators continue to receive regular base-pay increases compounded by longevity pay, which automatically increases with experience."
© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved