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The "Graphic Utah" feature in color on the front page of the Deseret News May 30 was grossly inaccurate.

Labeled "Teacher pay," your graphic stated that the total average Utah teacher salary and benefits for 1991-92 "exceeds the national average by $1,424 annually." That's incorrect. Utah teachers' compensation was then and is now far below the national average.Utah Education Association's research office informs me that the national average is not available. The creator of your graphic undoubtedly was referring to the Utah Foundation's estimate for the average of Utah's teachers and those of the six sur-rounding states.

If the "Graphic Utah" item had reflected a true picture of this state's 1991-92 teacher pay, as it was labeled, it would have stated an average Utah teacher salary of $26,339. That figure comes from National Education Association research, and it is far below the national average teacher salary that year of $34,098. NEA gathered its information from the 50 State Offices of Education.

However, Utah teachers also received an additional average of $1,773 in 1991-92 for career ladders. That brought the estimated average pay to a total of $28,072, still far below the national average cited in the paragraph above.

The teacher benefit information in the graphic feature, aside from teachers' salaries, was based on health insurance, Social Security and retirement costs. That information is "soft" at best because Utah's six surrounding states do not collect this information on a statewide basis.

Some other states' retirement systems can and are ignoring their actuaries' recommended contribution rates, making Utah's system appear more generous.

Also, Utah's teacher retirement system has a high unfunded retirement liability. The early retirement "window" that opened several years ago is being paid by current employees, even though they will not enjoy that benefit.

Thanks for this opportunity to set the record straight.

Lowell Baum

Executive director

Utah Education Association