News Story

MEA Executive Salaries 'Not Based on Merit'

But critics say the union is not being consistent

An education group recently reported some prosperous years for the Michigan Education Association: The head of the state’s largest teachers union is being paid nearly $300,000 while other top leaders earn more than $200,000.

But some are wondering why a union that supports its members being paid based only on education level and seniority is compensating its leaders differently.

“If the MEA is attempting to attract a high-quality workforce with top-notch compensation packages, why don’t they allow school districts to do the same?” asked Michael Van Beek, director of education policy for the Mackinac Center. “Locked into a union-demanded single salary schedule that treats all teachers like assembly line workers, districts can’t offer a high-quality physics or calculus teacher more money.

“School districts are forced to offer all teachers the exact same pay package.”

But Doug Pratt, director of public affairs for the union, says that MEA executives are paid democratically and by seniority.

“Each year at MEA’s Spring Representative Assembly, democratically-elected MEA members vote to approve MEA’s budget – this includes the budget for executive salaries,” said Pratt in an e-mail. “[The] 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.”

But Pratt denies that union leaders are paid differently than members. “MEA salaries are determined by seniority-based salary schedules.  MEA pay is not based on merit.”

A watchdog group critical of the union says this is misleading.

“They have a different salary schedules for their union executives than their other lower-level union staff,” said Steve Gunn, the communications director for the Muskegon-based Education Action Group. “And those [salaries] are entirely different than what they suggest for public school teachers.”

“This reminds me of Animal Farm, where all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.”

Van Beek believes the union is being inconsistent with their pay levels.

“If the MEA held true to its beliefs about what’s best for teachers, they’d pay all of their employees exactly the same regardless of their position or value to the union.”

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.