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

Michigan and local taxpayers provided the West Bloomfield School District with more than $13,500 per student in 2008-2009, yet it still faces a $1.7 million deficit for 2010 and $3.8 million for 2011. Employee compensation makes up 85 percent of the budget, so the district has asked teachers to help close the gap with revisions to their union contract. Their response was to picket, which they did in October.

According to the Michigan Department of Education, the average teacher salary in West Bloomfield was $70,192 in 2009. This ranks 40th among 551 school districts in the state, and 10th highest among the 24 Oakland County districts that reported teacher salaries.

West Bloomfield teachers currently do not contribute anything towards the cost of their own health insurance premiums. The coverage costs taxpayers $20,511 for a “family plan,” the most-popular, and is purchased from the Michigan Education Special Services Association, an arm of the state’s largest teachers union. The district also provides employees with dental, life, long-term disability and vision insurance at no cost to themselves.

The 2009 statewide public and private employer average cost for a family insurance plan premium was $13,160, some 36 percent less than what West Bloomfield pays. On average, employees in Michigan contribute about 20 percent toward the costs of these premiums.

To close the budget deficit the district has asked teachers for a 10 percent across-the-board salary reduction, and to pay between $40 and $100 per month for health insurance. The only salary reductions contained in a counter-proposal from the union are to coaching and extracurricular stipends (there are 179 different varieties of these). The union actually proposes salary increases for 2011-2012.

Given the current economic realities, many will find it hard to understand why school employee unions won’t do more. Johnny Mickles, a field representative for the American Federation of Teachers, provided some insight at a recent state association conference: “It’s my opinion, and every teacher in Michigan’s opinion, that the district always has money.” By “district,” of course, he means “taxpayers.”

The original version of this story was posted online on Oct. 14, 2010.

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