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The average American teacher's salary has risen by more than $18,000 since 1972, but inflation has reduced the increase to only $500, according to a survey released Friday by the American Federation of Teachers.

In Utah, the average salary for public school teachers in 1987-88 was $22,783, ranking 44th nationally but adjusted to 42nd by the AFT ranking. The state's average beginning teacher salary was $15,266."The news is good but clearly not as encouraging as we would like," AFT President Albert Shanker said. "After years of neglect, teacher salaries are barely over the level they were at in the early 1970s.

"Education reform efforts have started to raise salaries, but more is needed to attract and retain high quality teachers."

The average elementary and secondary teacher was paid $9,705 in 1972, according to the AFT's annual 50-state teacher salary report, "Survey Analysis and Trends: 1988." The average for 1987-88 was $28,085.

The average teacher had only worked 10 years in 1972 while the current average is 16.

The survey also shows that based on the value of 1988 dollars, teachers with 15 years of experience earned $31,451 in 1972, nearly $2,700 more than teachers with 16 years of experience are earning in 1988.

"Veteran teachers are one of the most valuable resources our public schools have," Shanker said. "But how will we convince teachers to stay in the classroom if we have to tell them that in the year 2004 - after they've taught for 16 years - they will be just $500 ahead of what a teacher with 15 years experience made in 1988?

"We are going to have to move a little faster, not only in terms of raising teacher salaries but also increasing professional opportunities for teachers if we are going to attract and retain the best and the brightest into our classrooms."

On the other hand, the figures indicate teachers have been doing well in the 1980s.

The average salary has gone up almost 62 percent from the $17,364 in 1981. A chart in the survey shows that based on 1988 dollars, salaries for almost everyone were at their highest point in the past three decades in 1972.

Also, the survey lists 10 white-collar fields where starting salaries are higher than the teachers' $19,683 average, including engineering, accounting, marketing and business administration. However, the statistics also show that since 1982, the ratio of the difference in each of the 10 fields has been decreasing in the teachers' favor.

The survey also breaks down average teachers' salaries by states. Alaska reported the highest, $40,510 or 144 percent of the national average. South Dakota the lowest, $19,758.

After an adjustment for interstate differences in the cost of living, the figures show teachers in Michigan, Alaska, California Minnesota and Illinois make the most.