News Story

Reality Check: Is Teacher Pay So Low They Cannot 'Eat and Have a Life'?

Starting Michigan teacher salaries comparable to other professions

Rockford Public School high school teacher Craig Beach wrote a column for MLive in which he alleged that Republican lawmakers are ruining the teaching profession and talked about a colleague’s daughter’s views on teacher pay.

Beach quoted the young woman criticizing the teaching profession’s “extremely low pay” with “I want to eat and have a life.

The article quotes the young woman as saying: “Mom, I know what goes into the profession. You demonstrate the many hours put in after leaving school, the stress, the lack of respect and now extremely low pay. I want to eat and have a life. I am not ready to invest another $20,000 to make what you do."

A first-year teacher at Rockford with a bachelor’s degree would have a starting salary of $37,184 and that would bump up to $40,537 with a master’s degree.

According to’s 2011-12 annual survey of undergrad college degrees starting median salaries, that first-year Rockford teaching salary is on par with degrees in advertising ($37,700), biology ($37,900) and human resources ($37,900). The Rockford first-year salary is better than the median starting salaries for degrees in fashion design ($36,300), health care administration ($36,700), hotel management ($36,100) and public relations ($35,500).

And that first-year teacher wouldn’t stay at that starting salary for long. The average teacher’s salary in the Rockford School District was $62,351 in 2010-11, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

Leon Drolet, president of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, said he agreed that the young woman Beach highlighted would not be right for the teaching profession.

“She should not be hired (to be a teacher),” Drolet said. “She should take a job where she can ‘eat and live’ and let someone else who can ‘eat and live’ on $50,000 and $60,000 a year who is eager to do that job at that salary. I would be interested to find where those places are. If they know of a secret place that gives them more pay, gives them better benefits and gives them more time off, they should go there and let people who are interested and passionate about teaching have those jobs. Let them go to their secret, mythical place.”

Beach didn’t respond to a request sent to his school email address seeking comment.

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.