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

Nearly every single aspect of a teacher's job falls under the rules of a union contract. The following is a synopsis of just one of those agreements in Michigan. It comes from Walled Lake Consolidated Schools.

The main source of teacher compensation is the single salary schedule, which pays teachers based only on their years of experience and college degree. Walled Lake's pay scale has 25 automatic 2-to-3 percent annual pay increases. The average teacher salary is $74,105.

Walled Lake teachers also receive generous benefit packages. Teachers pay nothing toward their own health insurance, which costs the district $14,500 annually for a family plan (similar average costs in Michigan are $11,300). A teacher retiring after 30 years with the average teacher salary would net a $33,347 annual lifetime pension (plus health benefits).

The union contract also includes bonus pay, which ranges from $1,500 to $7,000 per year for additional academic certifications or duties. Teachers can also earn anywhere between $700 and $7,000 annually for coaching or participating in other extracurricular activities. The president of the teachers union also gets extra perks, like being released from teaching duties without losing salary
or benefits.

Finally, the contract covers working conditions. Teachers are required to be at school for a total of 1,342 hours per year, and can store up an unlimited number of the 11 leave days they get every year. The district then pays teachers for accumulated leave days when they leave the district.

A fully detailed analysis is as follows:

 Salary Schedule 

  • Salaries are determined strictly by "steps," which use a matrix of years experience and graduate credit hours and degrees.
  • There of 25 "steps" on the schedule, so teachers get automatic pay raises (2-3 percent) for their first 25 years in the district.
  • 89 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 $50,405 and $81,361.
  • The Michigan Department of Education reported the average teacher salary in Walled Lake in 2007-08 was $74,105.
  • In addition to step increases, the entire salary schedule increases by 1 percent each year.

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 average salary of $74,105 and 30 years of service: $33,347.25

Fringe Benefits 

  • District pays complete cost  of health insurance premium (approximately $14,500 annually)
  • Two health insurance options:
    • Plan A - MESSA Choices II with $100/$200 deductible and $10/$20 RX card, $40,000 life insurance, long-term disability, dental, vision.
    • Plan B - $1,200 cash payment, life, long-term disability, dental, vision.
  • Severance pay: $250 per year of experience (maximum of $7,500)
  • Substitution teacher pay for  50 percent of their accumulated sick/leave days upon retirement, resignation or termination

Bonus Pay for Additional Duties or Certification 

  • Certification with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards: $2,000
  • Department chairpersons: $1,539-$6,928 (varies by size of department and experience)
  • Curriculum coordinators : $4,617-$6,928, (varies by experience)
  • NCA chairs get stipend of $3,600 or $1,800 (depending on their building)
  • Other wage rates for additional duties:
    • $27.40/hr for Saturday tests
    • $28.20/hr for summer school
    • $0.47 per minute for temporary substitution
  • Class of more than 30 students: 1/6-1/5 of salary
  • Elementary after school special education classes: 5-20 percent of salary (varies by class size)

Work Schedule 

  • Required number of work days: 179
  • Daily schedule: Begins 5 minutes before the first class and ends 5 minutes after the last class
  • Maximum of 7.5 hours per day at school (1,342 hours per year)
  • A 30 minute uninterrupted lunch period
  • Compensation day for every evening parent-teacher conference
  • Substitute teacher pay:
    • Working on "compensation days"
    • Training during the summer

Leave Time 

  • 11 days at beginning of school year
    • 2 for personal use
    • 3 days for bereavement
    • 2 days for non-Christian religious holidays
  • Unlimited accumulation of leave days
  • 2 years of leave time for joining military, Peace Corps, Job Corps or America Corps
  • 2 years of unpaid leave for childcare (seniority and tenure remain intake)
  • 2 years of personal illness/disability beyond sick days (unpaid)
  • 1 year for tenured teachers to attend school
  • All persons on leave can stay on district's health insurance plan
  • 12 weeks for birth of child, adoption, or family illness. Health insurance paid by district
  • Year-long sabbatical leave for tenured teachers at half salary and full benefits
  • 7 days for union business (union pays for substitutes) 

Compensation for Union President 

  • Union president is released from classroom teaching without loss of pay or fringe benefits
  • Additional stipend: $4,617-$6,928 (union pays half)
  • 10 per diems during summer 

Extra Curricular Activities Compensation 

  • Coaching (based on years of experience)
    • Head football, basketball, volleyball and wrestling coach: $4,617-$6,928 (assistants: $3,078-$4,619)
    • Head ice hockey, track, baseball, gymnastics, swimming, softball and soccer coach: $4,233-$6,351 (assistants: $2,693-$4,042)
    • Head  pom pom, cheerleading, golf, tennis, skiing and cross country coach: $3,078-$4,619 (assistants: $2,309-$3,464)
    • Middle school coaches: $1,924-$4,042
  • Music and Fine Arts (based on years of experience)
    • Band, orchestra, chorus and marching band: $1,924-$2,887
    • Assistant high school marching band and pep band: $770-$1,732
    • High school drama/musical producer: $7,696-$11,548 (may be split between teachers)
    • Middle school play director: $1,539-$2,309
  • Miscellaneous
    • High school forensics: $3,848-$5,774 (assistants: $2,309-3,464)
    • Senior class sponsor: $2,693-$4,042
    • Junior, sophomore, freshman class sponsors: $770-$1,155
    • Camping program: $770-$1,732 (four nights; prorated based on length of trip)
    • Supervisor of Reproductive Health Education: $770-$1,155
    • Yearbook: $1,924-$2,887
    • Student newspaper: $1,154-$1,732
    • National Honor Society: $3,078-$4,619
    • Elementary safety patrol: $385-$577
    • $28.72/hr for drivers education
    • $27.40/hr for After School Cable Television Production Manager
    • Intramural coaches/sponsors receive $18/hr

The original version of this story was posted online on March 10, 2010. 

Mackinac Center for Public Policy Director of Education Policy Audrey Spalding describes her latest study on right-to-work law violations in public school contracts and suggests why districts and unions are ignoring the law.


Most Popular