There are 19 gym teachers in the Farmington School District who make more than $85,000 a year each. The average gym teacher's salary in Farmington is $75,035. By comparison, the science teachers in that district make $68,483 per year on average.
That’s not unusual in Michigan schools, according to Freedom of Information Act requests received from around the state.
In the Woodhaven-Brownstown district, 18.5 (FTE) science teachers average some $58,400 per year in salary, while 12 gym teachers averaged nearly $76,700. In Harrison, science teachers earned $49,000 on average while gym teachers averaged $62,000.
This is not unusual, because school districts don’t differentiate what a teacher does when considering compensation, regardless of the district's educational needs. Teachers are paid on a single salary schedule based on seniority and education level.
Science education has become a concern after students across the nation did poorly on a recent national exam. Fewer than 33 percent of elementary and high school students had a solid grasp of science according to results earlier this year from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center, said the single salary pay scale puts schools at a disadvantage in trying to attract and retain the best science teachers.
“If you are skilled in the science field, you are going to have a lot of opportunities with a private-sector company that will reward you more than a school district,” Van Beek said. “Science and math are what the United States is most significantly trailing other countries in. Those are the fields that are seen as driving innovation and wealth creation.”