New teachers in Arizona earned less than new teachers anywhere else in the nation except Montana during the 2002-03 school year, according to a national survey released Thursday.
The problem is, the numbers for Arizona appear to be wrong.
The American Federation of Teachers, a national teachers union with a small Arizona chapter, reported that new Arizona teachers earned an average of $23,548 in 2002-03, down from $24,972 in 2001-02.
The Arizona numbers, h owever, inadvertently included the salaries of parttime teachers in the mix, which skewed the state’s numbers lower.
The Arizona Department of Education, which provided state data for the survey, issued a letter of apology Thursday to the American Federation of Teachers for the mix-up and said the average salary of new Arizona teachers in 2002-03 was actually about $30,953.
Using that figure, Arizona would have ranked 21st in the nation.
"We appreciate the adjustments made by the state Department of Education and understand that sometimes mistakes are made," American Federation of Teachers research director Jewell Gould said Thursday from Washington, D.C., where his organization was holding its annual conference.
"After carefully reviewing the new figures, the AFT will make any necessary adjustments."
The revised figures are more in line with a salary report prepared last year by the Arizona Education Association.
That report showed that all of the state’s 40 largest school districts paid new teachers more than $24,000 in 2002-03.
Overall, only 11 of about 200 Arizona school districts paid new teachers less than the amount originally reported as the state average by the American Federation of Teachers.
All 11 of these school districts were in rural areas such as Snowflake and Colorado City and were among the smallest school districts in the state.
East Valley school districts meanwhile, paid their new teachers some of the state’s highest beginning salaries.
Eight of the 13 East Valley school districts in 2002-03 paid their rookies more than $29,564 — the amount that the American Federation of Teachers reported as the national average for beginning teachers.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said Thursday that the state provides equalized funding to all school districts based on enrollment and attendance, and no Arizona school district should have to start its new teachers at less than $24,000.
"Any school district that starts its new teachers at $24,000 is mismanaged," he said.
The American Federation of Teachers survey showed that the average salary for all teachers in 2002-03 was $45,771, up 3.3 percent from the previous year.
Among new teachers, the survey showed that Alaska paid the highest beginning average salary in 2002-03 at $37,401, and Montana paid the lowest beginning average salary at $23,052.