Teachers in the mid-Hudson pull down some of the highest salaries in the state, based on data cited by a conservative think tank. 

The Empire Center for Public Policy examined public school teachers’ salaries across the state in a new study entitled, “What’s driving K-12 school costs?” The center released the report Feb. 3.

Based on data from the Empire Center’s website (www.empirecenter.org), the median compensation for public school teachers in Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties was $78,840 in 2013-14. That puts teachers in Sullivan, Ulster and Orange counties 6 percent ahead of the statewide median of $73,933.

The report also looked at a broader region, including those three counties and Dutchess, Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties. That larger region’s median was $98,621, second only to the median salary of teachers on Long island – at $104,129, according to the Empire Center.

In comparison, the overall median income of individuals in the mid-Hudson – Sullivan, Ulster and Orange counties – is considerably less. For those with bachelor’s degrees, their income in 2013 ranged from $44,650 to $57,227. For those with graduate or professional degrees, the range went from $62,532  to $74,567.

Locally, teachers in Monroe-Woodbury lead the way, with median salaries of $101,584, while on the flip-side teachers in Roscoe take home a median income of $60,427.

“The takeaway is the little-known Triboro Amendment is a major cost driver that allows salaries to rise, even when contracts have expired,” according to Ken Girardin, communications manager for the Empire Center. “If you wanted to get rid of automatic step increases that happen after contracts expire, then you would need to repeal the Triborough Amendment.”

The Triborough Amendment is a clause in the 1967 Taylor Law that ensures that the terms of a teacher’s contract remain in effect and unchanged until a new contract is negotiated.

The study has put the Empire Center at odds with unions, including New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), which represents more than 600,000 educators.

According to NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn, the Triborough Amendment was passed by lawmakers in return for teachers not being allowed to strike.

“There is not a sentence in the amendment that guarantees automatic increases in salaries and benefits and there are teachers contracts in about 40 school districts that don’t have any step increases,” said Carl Korn, NYSUT spokesman.

Median teachers salaries have risen over the past several years, but NYSUT attributes it to the loss of an estimated 35,000 teaching positions from 2008-2013, which were mostly entry-level jobs.

NYSUT calls the Triborough Amendment an important incentive to negotiation.

“If the steps were frozen and the faculty is not permitted to strike, then collective bargaining would become collective begging,” Korn said.

Other unions, including the AFL-CIO, have also blasted the study.

“This latest study is just another reprehensible, misguided attempt to diminish workers rights and protections,” said Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO.

© 2015 Times Herald-Record

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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

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