Michigan Teachers Are the Nation’s Highest Paid

When compared to the average income of people in the state they serve

The average salary of a Grand Rapids Public Schools teacher was $54,690 in 2015-16. The per capita income of city residents from 2011 to 2015 (in 2015 dollars) was $28,930, or just 53 percent of what teachers made in the school district.

Using that type of analysis, a study from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan found that Michigan public school teachers are the highest paid in the nation when salaries are compared to average incomes in the state where they serve.

The average Michigan public school teacher’s salary in 2015-16 was $63,878 while the state’s per capita personal income was $42,833 that year. This means the average teacher made 1.49 times the average income, the highest ratio in the nation.

Oregon, whose teachers earned $60,064 while the state’s personal income was $43,830 per person, had the second-highest ratio in the nation at 1.37.

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In simple terms, Michigan’s annual teacher salary of $63,878 was the 11th-highest in the nation.

Washington, D.C.’s public school teachers earned $75,880 in 2015. Overall, that was third highest in the nation only behind New York ($77,957) and Massachusetts ($76,981). Since Washington D.C.’s per capita personal income was $73,505 (highest in the nation), the public school teachers there ranked 44th among their national peers when compared with residents.

South Dakota's teachers had the lowest pay relative to the population they serve, earning less than the average resident. South Dakota teachers earned $42,025 a year while per capita personal income in the state was $47,912.

Craig Thiel, the author of the study for the Citizens Research Council, said the findings have received little attention from the press. None of Michigan’s major news outlets have reported the findings. Thiel said he did see the report covered by The Education Trust-Midwest, a public policy research organization.

The CRC paper mentions that average teacher pay has been falling in Michigan for five consecutive years. The average teacher salary in 2015-16 (most recent year data is available from the Michigan Department of Education) was $61,875.

While the state average is falling, the salaries of individual Michigan teachers have been rising. The apparent contradiction is due to older, higher-paid teachers retiring and being replaced with younger teachers with less seniority and lower pay. Except for long-serving instructors who have reached the top of union-negotiated pay scales, the vast majority of Michigan teachers received a pay increase in 2015-16.

For example, at Okemos Public Schools in Ingham County, many teachers saw their salary increase from $66,210 in 2014-15 to $70,338 in 2015-16, a 6-percent pay hike.

Okemos is an affluent Lansing suburb, and its school district receives far less per pupil funding than the Lansing district. Okemos received $10,234 per pupil for its general fund in local, state and federal dollars while Lansing received $13,047 per pupil.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified funding for The Education Trust-Midwest. That public policy research organization is funded in part by The Kresge Foundation and The Skillman Foundation.


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