News Story

State 'Teacher of the Year' Finalist Given Middle-of-the-Pack Pay

Union salary schedule means 'they're not paying good teachers what they're worth'

In 2007, Pattengill Elementary School Teacher Kim Hoke was one of three state finalists for the Michigan Department of Education's Teacher of the Year award. 

That year, Hoke made $50,185. There were 10 gym teachers in the Berkley School District in Oakland County who made more money than her that year.

Now, five years later, Hoke ranks 157th out of the 285 teachers in the Berkley School District in Oakland County, and had her salary frozen at $64,372 in 2012-13, according to documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request.

"They're not paying good teachers what they're worth," said Audrey Spalding, education policy director for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "The district's teacher salary schedule ensures that Hoke's pay is based on the number of years she's worked for the district, and her degree. By not basing teacher pay on performance, Berkley is shortchanging its best teachers."

Teacher compensation has been a big topic this year as unions and state officials oppose having teachers paid based on performance and accomplishments, instead wanting the system of longevity and education level to be the sole determining factors.

House Bill 4625 would require that job performance and job accomplishments be the "primary" factor used to determine compensation and that evaluation of job performance be based primarily upon student growth data.

The bill only applies to teachers and administrators hired after the effective date of the bill, if passed. Other teachers would have the ability to opt in.

In opposition to the bill, the Michigan Education Association quoted Donald Heller, dean of the Michigan State University College of Education, as saying: "Research shows that teachers improve in skill level as they gain in experience. This bill does little to ensure we have the best people teaching our students in the state of Michigan."

Heller said in an email that he doesn't oppose performance pay "as long as it is fairly constructed and uses measures that have been validated and shown to be reliable measures of teacher (or administrator) performance."

Heller said he objected to the legislation because it prohibited districts from compensating teachers and administrators even in part on experience and education and it was taking local control away from district school boards.

"I think you can construct an educator compensation plan that combines experience and education levels along with fair performance measures," Heller said.

Hoke is not alone. Grosse Pointe North High School science teacher Gary Abud was named "Teacher of the Year" in Michigan for 2013-2014, but the union salary schedule ranks him 477th out of 595 teachers for salary in his Grosse Pointe Public Schools district.

Hoke, School Board President Paul Ellison and Berkley Communications Supervisor Jessica Stilger didn't respond to requests for 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.