Like most public schools, Wayne-Westland pays educators only on degree-level and longevity
In the Wayne-Westland Community Schools, high school math teachers are the lowest paid as a group and make on average almost $25,000 less a year than the physical education teachers.
The high school science teachers make $11,000 less than the district’s gym teachers on average.
The salaries are set by a six-year teacher’s contract Wayne-Westland agreed to in 2008 and runs through 2014. The salary schedule determines pay solely by years of experience and education background.
On average, physical education teachers were the highest paid group and made $78,675 a year. Teacher gross salaries can also include pay for extracurricular activities, such as coaching a sports team or teaching a class during their break. High school science teachers made $67,564 and high school math teachers made $53,775.
Wayne-Westland School District Spokeswoman Jenny Johnson didn’t respond to a request for comment.
"This illustrates that school districts don’t take into consideration need when they determine teacher salaries,” said Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “It is based on longevity and college degrees. There are calls for more high quality math and more science teachers particularly at the high school level from all corners of the country. And this district and other districts like it are making it more difficult for themselves to attract and retain more high quality math and science teachers because they are willing to pay other teachers who aren’t in as high demand as those who are.
"There is a widespread agreement that they are going to need to reward quality math and science teachers," Van Beek said. "And under this system, they can’t do that."
The disparity in salaries for the fields of math and science is significant because of a national debate over the demand for more quality science and math teachers in the classroom. The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union, has pledged to help get more teachers into those fields, but the union backs the single-salary schedule.
The issue is not restricted to just one district. In 2011 in the Troy Public Schools, seven gym teachers made more than an advanced placement biology teacher who was honored as a teacher of the year.
State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said earlier this year that all teachers should make $100,000 as part of a bigger solution to get higher quality math and science teachers.
A 2010 law signed by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm requires school districts to use job performance as a “significant factor” in determining teacher pay. But nearly all districts still use a single salary schedule, in which pay is based almost entirely on years on the job and college credentials. A few have adopted a policy of paying their “highly effective” teachers
The data for the analysis was taken from the district’s transparency link on its web page where it listed all of the employees’ salaries for 2012.