News Story

$100K Teachers? For Some Educators, Unions Are Standing In the Way

Plan would cost taxpayers billions while state already has high supply of teachers

It would take about $4.2 billion to get all full-time public school teachers to the $100,000 annual salary that State of Michigan Superintendent of Education Mike Flanagan said he would like to see happen as a way to attract better qualified teachers.

The $4.2 billion figure is what it would take to get the 98,000 full-time teachers in Michigan who had an average salary of $61,560 in 2011 to $100,000, said Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Teachers earn that average $61,560 working 185 days a year.

The state spends around $13 billion on education from the School Aid Fund.

Flanagan made his comments recently at Michigan State University where he was discussing the Next Generation Science Standards for K-12 education.

"We need to be moving all teachers to that salary level ($100,000) to continue getting the best and brightest people educating our students," Flanagan said.

Charles Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said there are teachers in public schools worth $100,000 or more.

"But the current school system doesn't reward that kind of achievement," Owens said. "It rewards bureaucracy and sloth and tenure. …  We won't measure performance. We won't measure standards. We just think they should make $100,000 a year because it is the right thing to do. It will attract people. No doubt about that. And given the current structure of public education where pay is how long you stick around and not performance, I think it would get a lot of people — I wouldn't be so sure about the qualified part."

Van Beek said there was a need for teachers in math and science, but questioned why Flanagan would say all teachers should make six figures when there is no shortage of teachers.

Education Week did an analysis of Michigan and found in 2009-10 the state produced 2,903 new teachers but the demand was for 1,227.

In March 2012, Davison Community Schools said it had 120 applicants for an elementary school teacher position. At the same time, Ionia Public Schools posted an opening for a high school math teacher and received 28 applicants. In the fall of 2011, Chippewa Valley Schools posted 21 teaching positions and received 2,211 applicants.

"There are plenty of teachers in this state willing to work for the current wages that school districts offer," Van Beek said.

Flanagan was correct when talking about a shortage of math and science teachers, Van Beek said.

There were 34,771 people who became certified to be eligible to become public school teachers from 2007-2010. Yet, only 1,250 were certified in science, which can cover up to five different subjects. There were 1,400 who were certified in health and physical education, which are primarily gym teachers.

The state's current pay scale for teachers is based on seniority and education. That leads to issues like what happened in Troy Public Schools. In 2011, seven gym teachers in the Troy district made more money than Rebecca Brewer, who was an AP biology teacher selected as a national teacher of the year. The gym teachers made between $97,108 to $99,000-plus a year compared to Brewer's salary of $92,264.

And some districts have made a mockery of attempts to institute merit pay for teachers.

Some Michigan public school districts determined that the most effective teachers in the district would receive a bonus of only a $1 to $3 a year

Van Beek said there would be support for quality teachers to make $100,000, but the unions would never allow it.

"Good teachers should be paid more," Van Beek said.

But some districts have not made serious attempts to identify who are the better teachers in their district.

For example, every teacher and principal in the Hazel Park School district was given the highest "highly effective rating" in 2011-12 by administrators despite failing grades for student achievement throughout the district.

In Michigan, there were 42 individual school buildings that rated all of their teachers as "highly effective." And 97 percent of the estimated 95,000 teachers in that report were rated "effective" or "highly effective." 

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.