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Remote Utah school district offers $80,000 teaching salaries

MONTEZUMA CREEK, Utah -- (CNN VIA ABC 7) A school district in southeastern Utah is in the middle of a test program to see if offering salaries of up to $80,000 can persuade teachers to stay at an elementary school near the Utah-Colorado border.

The Deseret News reported Sunday that teacher turnover is a major problem at Montezuma Creek Elementary School due to unusual working conditions.

The test program started three years ago to pay significantly higher salaries to effective veteran educators selected as lead teachers at the school.

Colorado is grappling with its own problems attracting and retaining educators in rural areas. The state is in the midst of a teacher shortage and a low average starting salary is one of the reasons why.

Teachers starting out in Colorado make only around $32,000 on average. Denver teachers earn a median salary of just over $53,000 a year, and many struggle to find affordable housing.

Since the Utah pilot started three years ago, all but one lead teacher has remained at the school. Turnover has also been reduced, but more importantly, student achievement has improved.

The program was launched with a grant, and administrators now seek to expand the effort to other schools.

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