MEA Union's Latest In Persistent Pattern of Lowballing Teacher Salaries

New engineers weren't making $164,000 in 1964

In the most recent edition of the Michigan Education Association's online magazine, a retired Michigan teacher made a claim intended to portray how poorly teachers were paid years ago.

The October issue of the MEA’s “Voice Magazine” said this:

“Penny Letts remembers. The former middle school math teacher from Huron County’s Harbor Beach started her career 49 years ago making $6,000 a year, ‘and my friends were graduating from college with engineering degrees, making $22,000. They thought I was pretty stupid.’”

ForTheRecord says: It’s very likely that Letts is misremembering events from so long ago. When adjusted for inflation, a $22,000 salary in 1966 would be $164,000 in 2016 dollars.

Government data suggests that the idea that 1966 college graduates took entry level jobs in any profession at a starting salary of $164,000 in 2016 dollars is highly implausible.

According to the U.S. Census, the median income in 1965 for families in the U.S. was $6,900. Just 7 percent of the nation’s families made $15,000 or more that year.

And while entry-level engineers coming out of college have among the highest-paying starting salaries, they don’t come near $164,000 a year.

According to Michigan Tech University, the median entry-level salary for engineers in 2016 ranged from $55,880 in environmental engineering to $68,510 for software developers.

While Letts can’t be blamed for not remembering something correctly from nearly 50 years ago, the MEA certainly should have questioned the teacher’s recollections before publishing them.

That they failed to do so is part of a persistent MEA pattern.

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As part of our efforts on government transparency, we obtained data on the compensation of most public employees in the state. This information has been used to fact check claims about salaries, verify data from other open records requests, and hold government spending accountable.

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