Most school districts are putting the finishing touches on next year's budget and anxiously awaiting word from Lansing about the exact dollar amount they'll get per pupil. While they're waiting, districts would be wise to give their teachers union contract a close look, since the bulk of school spending is absorbed by these employees.

About 69 percent of the Holland Public Schools $40 million operating budget goes towards paying employees covered by its current collective bargaining agreement for teachers and a few other employee groups. (The budget figure does not include debt service payments on past construction projects.) Holland enrolls about 4,000 students and employs approximately 290 teachers.

Teacher salaries 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. Teachers are granted "tenure" after 4 years on the job, and once tenured are evaluated once every three years, but neither these evaluations nor the performance of their students affect how much they are paid.

Holland teachers get automatic annual pay raises between 3 and 5 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. After 14, 19 and 25 years of employment, teachers get an additional 1 to 3 percent raise as well. The vast majority of teachers in the district receive a base salary between $46,488 and $70,079; the average amount was $60,941 in 2009.

The district paid $14,311 per teacher for health insurance in 2009. Teachers contributed $40 per month, or 4 percent, to the cost of these premiums. 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's health insurance plans have no deductibles or office visit co-pays. Employeess who choose not to enroll in the district's plan get $100 per month and life, long-term disability, vision and dental insurance at no cost to them.

School employees are entitled to 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 Holland teacher with 30 years experience and an average base salary of $70,079 (the final "step" on the salary schedule) would be $31,536. For most retirees, this amount increases by 3 percent every year. An employee may begin collecting a pension upon reaching age of 55, or younger if he or she has 30 years of employment in public schools.

The union contract includes bonus pay for additional duties and certifications. Teachers get $29 per hour for teaching summer school, drivers education, supervising detention and participating in curriculum development. Middle School Team Coordinators get between $5,300 and $6,700 per year tacked on to their salaries, and teachers serving as Conflict Management Building Advisors get an extra $1,800 to $2,200 per year. Supervising lunch period pays $27 per hour, while subbing for a regular class fetches $35 an hour. The district pays all the fees for a teacher to get certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and pays $5,000 to each teacher who obtains this certification.

All teachers are allotted 10 sick, 2 bereavement and 2 personal leave days each year and may accumulate these up to 100. Up to 10 unused sick days may be cashed in at the end of each year for use as a tuition reimbursement. Teachers may take unpaid leaves for up to two years to enroll in a graduate program or to "explore a possible career change." Employees are given back their same job upon returning from leave.

The union contract also covers working hours and conditions. The contractual work year is 181 days long and each day is about 7 and one-half hours.  Teachers are guaranteed a 40-minute duty-free lunch period as part of their day. This adds up to 1,388 contractual works hours per year. The U.S. average for all occupations is 1,792 hours.

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. Aside from participating in athletics (which pays between $1,556 and $13,387 annually), there are nearly 100 different extracurricular positions available to teachers that pay between $529 and $6,668 each year. 

A fully detailed analysis can be found here.

Meet James Hohman, Assistant Director of Fiscal Policy at the Mackinac Center. James discusses his latest project, an analysis of Proposal 1, the proposal on personal property tax reform that will appear on the August 5th ballot. Read more about Proposal 1 here: http://www.mackinac.org/20246


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