News Story

Fat Years for State's Big Teacher Union

The last five years have been prosperous for the employees of the state’s largest teachers union. The number of employees and officials who received six-figure salaries from the Michigan Education Association rose from 134 to 164 during that time. This is a 22 percent increase from 2004-05 to 2009-10, according to financial documents filed by the MEA.

Overall disbursements to MEA employees and officers jumped 31 percent, from $27.2 million in 2004-05 to $34.7 million in 2009-10.

The increase in six-figure employee salaries comes while the union’s financial situation has gotten considerably worse. In 2004-05, the MEA listed its net assets at negative $29.9 million. For 2009-10, its net assets have dropped to negative $132 million.

The MEA has also lost about 10,000 members over the past five years. It had 164,007 members in 2004-05 and this fell to 153,710 in 2009-10.

“MEA firmly believes in providing excellent compensation to all employees as a means of recruiting and retaining the best possible workforce for MEA’s members,” wrote MEA spokesman Doug Pratt in an e-mail.

That has been true for several MEA members and officials, who have seen their salaries skyrocket through promotions and raises.

For example, in 2004-05, Iris Salters was the MEA vice president and received $169,894. Five years later, she is the president and is paid $297,458, an increase of $127,564.

Steve Cook received $136,947 as the MEA’s secretary treasurer in 2004-05. Five years later, he received $232,301 as the vice president.

And Pratt has more than doubled his compensation over the past five years. Five years ago, he was a web administrator receiving $76,965. As director of communications in 2009, his compensation went to $158,854.

But not all the big increases were due to promotions.

For example Cecilia Canfield, a secretary for the MEA, had her compensation increase from $51,658 to $83,556 in the last five years, a 62 percent increase.

Tim Cady, a UniServe director, saw his compensation increase from $105,615 in 2004-05 to $149,041, a 41 percent increase.

By comparison, the average Michigan workers saw his or her annual pay increase from $40,373 in 2004 to $43,645 in 2009, according to Bureau of Labor statistics. This is a raise of just 8 percent that did not keep up with inflation, which was 13 percent over that same period.

“In some ways, this isn’t surprising in the least,” Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy director of education policy, wrote in an e-mail. “Since most of their funding comes from forced dues paid by teachers, regardless of whether or not they’re members of the union, or from “services” they provide their subsidiaries like MESSA, the MEA is largely disconnected from the economic forces that impact both school employees and the state as a whole.”   

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.