Analysts commonly compare teacher salaries alone but doing so leaves out significant benefit costs.

The PSU study found that salaries are pretty comparable across the districts (in Oregon, those districts are Beaverton, Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Portland and Salem-Keizer), but there are significant variations in non-salary compensation.

The big differences come in two areas, the study, done by the Center for Public Service at PSU's Hatfield School of Government, determined.

Those areas are health insurance and pension costs.

Here's what the study found:

Employer Paid Health Insurance: The single largest reason for TECC cost variances for comparable teachers involved employer-paid health insurance costs. For Oregon districts, this TECC cost component ranged from an average low of $13,569 (Hillsboro) to a high of $18,713 (Lake Oswego). Seattle’s cost averaged $10,016 per teacher; Vancouver averaged $9,360 and Boise $7,320.
Retirement Costs: For Oregon mid-career teachers, retirement costs (including Social Security, pension obligation bond repayments, and any PERS employee pick up) ranged from a low of $12,065 in Portland – which does not pay the 6% employee pick up for PERS – to a high of $16,473 in Salem-Keizer (which does). Seattle’s retirement costs ($12,058) were within this range, while retirement costs for Vancouver ($9,562) and Boise ($9,145) were significantly lower.
The principal author of the study, former Secretary of State Phil Keisling, a Democrat, notes that the data are not necessarily conclusive because they reflect a small number of school districts—eight districts of Oregon’s 197, for instance.
Keisling further noted the cities studied have very different income levels.
“The eight districts chosen are hardly representative or typical, and should not be taken as such,” Keisling writes. “The three states also vary widely in terms of key economic metrics. Five of the districts –Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Portland, Beaverton, and Vancouver – are all within the same Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA), where the reported 2015 per capita median personal income (CPPI) was $48,422. The other SMSA PPI medians are: Seattle ($61,021); Salem ($37,121) and Boise ($39,956).
The PSU report comes at a time when the Oregon Legislature is grappling with a $1.4 billion budget deficit. As part of lawmakers efforts to address that deficit, they are considering changes both to the Public Employees Retirement System and to public employee insurance costs.
In a statement, Keisling said he and his colleagues hope the new study could help inform the budget debate.
“We believe this analytical framework can provide invaluable information to policy makers, K-12 employees, and citizens as they debate how best to optimize limited public dollars to cover the personnel costs for key public employees like K-12 teachers,” he said.