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

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Union Salary Schedule Ensures State 'Teacher of the Year' Earns Near Bottom In Pay

Grosse Pointe science teacher Gary Abud makes $21,000 less than district's average salary

Gary Abud

Gary Abud is a commodity experts say is in great demand around the country. He's recognized as a highly effective science teacher and was named the 2013-14 Teacher of the Year in Michigan.

However, the Grosse Pointe North High School Science teacher ranked 477th out of 595 teachers for salary in his own school district, according to data acquired in a Freedom of Information Act request. Abud made $56,876 in 2012-13, which is about $21,000 less a year than the district's average salary of $77,969 a year. The average teacher salary in Michigan in 2012 was $62,631, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

That's because Abud's pay has been based solely on his seniority and education level.

House Bill 4625 would change that by making teacher performance the primary factor in determining pay. The idea has been opposed by the Michigan Education Association, which prefers the current system based on seniority and education level. MEA officials didn't respond to requests for comment.

Abud said in an email that although teacher attrition was happening at an alarming rate, there is more that can be done to keep teachers happy than just increasing compensation.

"It is not what goes into a teacher's wallet, but what comes from their heart, that guides their decisions about classroom practice," Abud said. "Blows to the hearts of teachers, such as negative public rhetoric directed toward Michigan teachers will propagate a seemingly hostile professional environment that discourages the best and brightest from entering and remaining in the field."

Abud said that he didn't think seniority or advance degrees should be the only factors considered in determining a teacher's effectiveness or compensation. He said performance pay could work if it was structured properly.

Abud said he would rather see teachers rated on "objective criteria as the yard stick for student growth" and not endorse any particular assessment. He said educators need to be included in how performance compensation is handled and that they shouldn't be identical for all districts.

"Because students achieve growth in a variety of ways that match their learning needs," he said. "Ultimately, effective teaching should be evaluated and compensated using a multi-faceted approach determined at the local level with educators at the decision-making table."

The current salary system is not effective and teachers who excel, particularly in high need areas like math and science, should be properly compensated, said Michael Van Beek, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

"Research clearly demonstrates that high-quality teachers can have a huge impact on whether students learn," Van Beek said. "Every school should be clamoring for these types of teachers, and Michigan's best teachers should, therefore, command the highest salaries. Unfortunately, this isn't the case as unions and school boards have historically agreed to ignore teacher effectiveness altogether when determining salaries, favoring instead to pay all teachers the same regardless of how well they teach students. This had led to, among other things, Michigan's best teachers being grossly underpaid."

Christian Fenton, deputy superintendent for business and operations for the Grosse Pointe Public School system, said the teacher's contract that was ratified in March would include teacher performance pay. Fenton didn't have the specifics of how performance pay would work and the district hadn't put the contract on its website.

Grosse Pointe Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Harwood said in an email that Abud made less than the average teacher's salary because he was a newer teacher and hadn't reached the higher salary steps.

"Yet we still attract the very best teachers because they see the potential for growth as well as the non-monetary benefits of working in a high-performing district," Harwood wrote. "In Mr. Abud's shorter period of time in the field of teaching, he has accomplished a great deal. He is an inspiration to many through his learning and instructional methods that meet the individual needs of our students. We as a district are a learning institution and he shows the highest expectations we hold for all of our teaching and support staff."

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See also:

$100K Teachers? For Some Educators, Unions Are Standing In the Way

District's P.E. Teachers Average Tens of Thousands of Dollars More Than Math and Science Employees

Troy Gym Teacher Pay Trumps Nationall Recognized Science Teacher

Physics vs. Phys Ed: Regardless of Need, Schools Pay the Same

Will Schools Keep Ignoring Teacher Effectiveness When Setting Pay?

Commentary: Of Course Merit Pay Is a Good Idea

NEA Recognizes Need For STEM Teachers But Stands In the Way

MEA Executive Salaries 'Not Based On Merit'

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