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

At the Farmington Public Schools, the teachers’ union came up with a concession last school year:  Teachers that hit their 10th year of employment took only half of their union contract’s scheduled $16,000 to $20,000 automatic annual pay raises at the start of the year. But unless a new deal is negotiated, those teachers will get the rest of their 22 percent increases this August when another school year begins, a school administrator said.

The 10th-year step increase raises are part of the teachers’ contract. Teachers with 10 years in the district and a master’s degree were scheduled to have their salary jump from $69,583 to $85,945. Other teachers that work with impaired students and have a master’s degree were scheduled to see their salary go up from $84,547 to $104,428. Instead, the full impact of the raise was delayed a year.

 Most of the other annual automatic step increase raises for teachers with fewer years in the district are roughly 5-percent, which means about a 2 ½ percent increase over the last year due to the concession.  Like Farmington, other district’s teachers’ contracts make that last step increase raises larger than the previous step increases because the only raises afterwards are across-the-board increases in new contracts which are generally much smaller.

The average teachers’ salary in 2009-10 at Farmington was $76,086, which is 16th highest in the state and a 4.5 percent increase from 2008-09.

And the current contract that is set to expire offers teachers a health insurance plan with no premium contribution. By contrast, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average employee in Michigan pays 21 percent toward their health care plan when one is offered by an employer. The figure nationwide is 27 percent.

Despite the raises and generous health care plan, Farmington Superintendent Susan Zurvalec said on a local Detroit area TV news show that her district’s teachers were feeling unappreciated.

 “Our teachers are feeling like they are not valued anymore,” Zurvalec said. “When teachers don’t feel valued, people don’t want to go into education and become great teachers. … Right now, we are in Michigan, we are focusing on reducing the profession of teaching. … We should be investing in teachers and teaching and giving the districts the resources to do that.”

Zurvalec didn’t return an e-mail seeking comment.

Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, questioned how teachers at Farmington could feel not valued.

Van Beek noted that a teacher that started at age 23 in the Farmington district would make $40,109. That teacher’s salary would increase to $85,945 by the 11th year if that teacher earned a Master’s degree.

 “How could they do a better job of valuing their teachers? They are doubling their salaries in 11 years? What other ways do they think teachers need to be told they are valued? Do they want to triple their salaries?” Van Beek said.

David Ruhland, the Farmington school district’s executive director of human resources, said the salaries for teachers were competitive with the rest of Oakland County school districts. He said Farmington’s pay scale was among the top five in the county.

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