A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

(Editor's note: A version of this article appeared in the May 18, 2010, Port Huron Times Herald.)

An ongoing ad campaign from the Michigan Education Association claims that "politicians love to treat school employees like punching bags" and ignore the sacrifices of school employees whose "salaries and benefits continue to be cut." In the Port Huron Area School District, about  70 percent of the $106 million operating budget goes towards paying employees covered by current collective bargaining agreements for teachers and a few other employee groups. Yet few people know what is in these or other school labor contracts.

Teacher salaries in the district are determined by a single salary schedule that grants automatic pay raises based solely on an employee's years on the job plus additional pedagogy credentials. New teachers who meet minimal performance standards are granted "tenure" after four years on the job, which is almost a lifetime job guarantee regardless of effectiveness. Tenured teachers are evaluated once every three years, but neither these evaluations nor the performance of their students affect how much they are paid.

Port Huron teachers get automatic annual pay raises ranging from 3 to 10 percent as they progress through the time-on-the-job "steps" of the salary schedule. All teachers, regardless of their position on the step schedule, receive a 2 percent annual pay increase as the entire salary schedule grows by that amount. The vast majority of teachers in Port Huron receive a base salary between $57,579 and $71,972; the average amount was $66,604 in 2009.

In addition, the district pays $13,961 annually for teacher health insurance plans, regardless of whether the plan is single, two-person or family. Teachers do not contribute anything to the cost of their own health insurance premiums. Comparatively, the statewide average cost in the private sector for an employer-provided family plan is $11,300, with the employee picking up 22 percent of that amount. The district also provides life, vision and dental insurance at no cost to employees.

School employees are provided a lifetime pension when they retire, and also expect to receive lifetime post-retirement health benefits. Based on the state-run retirement system's formula, the lifetime pension for a Port Huron teacher with 30 years of experience and an average base salary of $71,972 (the final "step" on the salary schedule) would be $32,387. This amount increases by 3 percent every year. An employee may begin collecting a pension upon reaching age 55, or younger if he or she has 30 years of employment in public schools.

Teachers are allotted an average of 13.5 leave days per year and may accumulate 240 of these. Leave days may be used for personal and family illness, funerals, graduations, household emergencies and routine medical attention. Days off are also granted for conferences and workshops, and these do not count against a teacher's allotted leave days. In addition, the district pays for travel expenses for these events.

Other leave time opportunities are available. The union president is a school employee who is exempted from all teaching duties in order to conduct union business, essentially getting paid as a teacher but not teaching. Certain employees may take a year-long sabbatical and receive half of their salary and benefits during that time. Teachers are allowed a full year of unpaid leave for "advanced study" and "educational travel time," and may request a leave for other personal uses. After a leave of absence, teachers are automatically reassigned to their previous position.

The union contract also covers working conditions, including teaching loads and maximum class sizes. For example, high school teachers cannot be required to teach more than the equivalent of five classes per day, and elementary teachers must have 45 minutes of preparation time per day. Class sizes (except in a few special classes) may not exceed 30 at the elementary level, 31 in middle school and 32 in high school. The contract also prohibits the pupil-to-teacher ratio from exceeding 21.6 to 1.

The union contract also includes bonus pay for additional duties. Teachers are paid $32.47 per hour when participating in school dances, music events, athletic contests, summer and evening school and drivers training. This same rate applies for any substitute teaching they may perform. Finally, teachers can earn extra cash by coaching or participating in other extracurricular activities, such as band, drama, yearbook, intramurals, student clubs and many others. There are more than 100 different extracurricular positions that pay teachers between $533 and $8,066 annually.

A fully detailed analysis is as follows:

Table of Contents:
Salary Schedule
Fringe Benefits
Pension and Retirement Benefits
Bonus Pay for Additional Duties or Certification
Leave/Sick Time
Work Schedule/Environment
Extra Curricular Activities Compensation

Salary Schedule

  • Base salaries are determined strictly by "steps," which use a matrix of years experience and graduate credit hours and degrees.
  • There of 12 "steps" on the schedule, meaning teachers get automatic pay raises of between 3 and 10 percent for their first 12 years in the district.
  • In addition to step increases, the entire salary schedule increases by 2 percent each year so every teacher gets a 2 percent raise automatically.
  • 58 percent of teachers have graduate degrees and 80 percent have more than 5 years experience, meaning the vast majority of teachers' base salary is between $57,579 and $71,972.
  • The Michigan Department of Education reported the average teacher salary in Saline in 2008-09 was $66,604.

Fringe Benefits

  • District pays $13,961 annually for teacher health insurance premiums, regardless of whether they enroll in an individual, two-person or family plan.
  • Teachers contribute nothing to the cost of the premium, unless they "buy-up" to a higher priced health insurance plan.
  • The average family premium plan in Michigan costs $11,300, with employees contributing 22 percent of those costs.
  • Health insurance plans:
  • MESSA Super Care I ($15,496 annual premium): $10/$20 RX co-pay, no deductible
  • MESSA Choices I ($13,961 annual premium): $10/$20 Rx co-pay, no deductible.
  • The district also provides at no cost to teachers a $45,000 life insurance policy, long-term disability, dental and vision insurance.

Pension and Retirement Benefits

  • Every teacher participates in the state-run Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System, a defined-benefit lifetime pension system
  • Pension calculation: highest 3-year average compensation X 1.5 percent X years of service
  • Retirement eligibility: 30 years of service at age 46 or 15 years of service at age 55
  • Teacher contribution: 5.4 percent of salary
  • After 55, subsidized medical, dental and vision insurance for life (employees never contribute more than 18 percent of premiums)
  • Annual pension based on 30 years experience in Saline Area Schools with base salary of $71,972 (final M.A. step): $32,387.40 (this amount increases by 3 percent every year)

Bonus Pay for Additional Duties or Certifications

  • Union president is granted full release time from teaching duties without loss of pay, seniority or benefits.
  • Hourly pay of $32.47 for all of the following assignments:
    • School dances
    • Music events
    • Athletic contests
    • Substitute teaching
    • Evening school
    • Summer school
    • Drivers' training
  • School improvement chair: $2,135
  • 30 cents per mile for all travel as required during work day
  • $60 reimbursement for the cost of getting fingerprinted
  • Per diem for additional days of work = annual salary/contractual work days ($360 per day based on average teacher salary)

Leave/Sick Time

  • Leave days: 13.5 per year (1.5 per month)
  • 240 leave days may be accumulated in a personal leave bank
  • 13.5 personal leave days per year, approved for the following purposes:
    • Personal illness: 5 days maximum without doctor's note
    • Funeral: 1-5 days, depending on who died
    • Routine medical attention: 1 day
    • Graduation: 1-3 days
    • Required appearance (subpoenas, income tax investigation, etc.): varies
    • Household emergency: 1 day
    • Immediate family illness: 1 day
    • Service on government boards: 6 days
  • Personal leave days may be accumulated up to 240 in a personal leave bank
  • Short-term professional leaves of absence (do not count against personal leave bank):
    • Conferences
    • Meetings
    • Workshops
    • Seminars
    • Travel expenses paid by district
  • Approved long-term leave time:
    • President or vice-president of MEA or NEA: 2 years
    • Maternity: 1 year
    • Adoption: 1 year
    • Personal leave: 1 year, no stipulations
    • Advanced study: 1 year
    • Educational travel time: 1 year
    • Foreign teacher exchange leave: 1 year
    • Extended emergency: remaining school year
    • Military duty: varies
    • Peace Corps: varies
    • Political office: varies
    • Assignment with government agency: varies
  • Union gets 85 personal leave days to conduct union business

Work Schedule/Environment

  • 185 contractual work days
  • The teacher-pupil ratio must be 1/21.56
  • Teacher receive compensatory time off for any evening parent-teacher conferences or "open houses"
  • Weekly teaching loads:
    • Secondary: 25 teaching periods, 5 preparatory periods
    • Elementary: guaranteed 225 minutes of preparation time
  • Maximum class sizes:
    • Elementary: 30
    • Middle school: 31
    • High school: 32

Extra Curricular Activities Compensation

  • High school athletics:
    • Athletic director: $5,337
    • Football and basketball:
    •  
      • Varsity head coach: $8,066
      • Assistants: $5,337
      • 9th grade head coach and assistants: $4,270
    • Hockey, volleyball and wrestling:
    • Head coach: $6,405
      • Assistants: $4,270
      • 9th grade coach: $3,202
    • Soccer, track, baseball and softball:
    • Head coach: $5,337
      • Assistants: $4,270
      • 9th grade coach: $2,135-$3,202
    • Cross country and competitive cheerleading:
      • Head coach: $3,202
    • Cheerleading (sideline):
      • Varsity: $2,135
      • Junior varsity: $1,601
      • 9th grade: $1,067
  • Middle school athletics:
    • Football, basketball, track, softball, volleyball, soccer and cheerleading:
    •  
      • Head coach: $3,202
      • Assistants: $1,067
    • Tennis:
      • Head coach: $1,601
  • High school extracurricular:
    • Band: $5,337
    • Chorus: $4,270
    • Intramurals: $3,736
    • Drama: $3,202
    • Drill team: $2,668
    • National Honor Society: $2,135
    • Quiz bowl: $2,135
    • Yearbook: $2,135
    • Senior class sponsor: $2,135
    • Student council: $2,135
    • Junior class sponsor: $1,067
    • Sophomore class sponsor: $1,067
    • Freshman class sponsor: $1,067
  • Middle school extracurricular:
    • Intramurals: $3,736
    • Yearbook: $2,135
    • Band: $2,135
    • Student council: $2,135
    • Chorus: $1,601
    • Junior National Honor Society: $1,067
    • Quiz bowl: $1,067
    • Drill team: $1,067
    • Drama: $1,067
    • Service squad: $533
  • City safety patrol: $1,601
  • Audio visual coordinator: $1,601
  • Library: $1,067
  • Service squad: $800
  • Student council: $800
  • Township bus patrol: $533
  • Music organization: $533

Northern Michigan University economist Hugo Eyzaguirre discusses how raising the minimum wage will hurt emerging local economies. See more at "Raising the Minimum Wage, Lowering Opportunity."


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