News Story

Here are the Highest Paying School Districts in Michigan

Getting accurate data is not easy

In 2013-14, the highest paid teachers in the state on average were from Redford Union Schools in Wayne County. They made $86,675 a year, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

However, data cited by the state on teachers' salaries isn't always accurate.

For example, teachers in Detroit public schools whose management had been turned over to a state Education Achievement Authority office (EAA) – a “school district” comprised of the poorest-performing schools in Michigan – were the state's second-highest paid, according to data released in March by the Michigan Department of Education.

Except, the reported figures were almost certainly not accurate.

They were presented in an annual school spending report called MDE Bulletin 1014, whose compilers have in recent years struggled to accurately capture teachers’ salaries, because some school districts have trouble filing the correct data.

In this instance, the state report showed EAA teachers collecting an average salary of $83,672 a year.

But the EAA posted actual salaries of all the school employees under EAA oversight. Out of more than 350 teachers listed, only three were paid more than $80,000 a year.

EAA spokesman Mario Morrow said the district is looking into the discrepancy.

But this is not the only issue with the payroll data in this annual report. A tiny district in the Upper Peninsula called DeTour Area Schools, which has just 126 students, also had inaccurate salary data. The bulletin shows DeTour teachers as having an average salary of $83,020, making them the fourth-highest paid in the state.

In fact, the current teachers’ contract shows the highest salary on the pay scale is $68,498. So how can DeTour's average salary be more than the highest salary on the pay scale?

Superintendent Angela Reed said DeTour Area Schools has an arrangement with a charter school called the DeTour Arts and Technology Academy. Under the deal, the charter schoolteachers are considered employees of DeTour Area Schools.

For the state report, all the teachers' salaries were attributed only to DeTour Area Schools while the teachers' positions were divided among the two schools. This meant the bulletin had the local charter school teachers' average salary at $0 per year.

In another example, the Michigan Department of Education reported that in the 2012-13 school year, Westwood Community Schools had the highest paid teachers in the state, with an average salary of $89,846.

However, Michigan Capitol Confidential checked the district’s union contract pay scale and discovered the amount reported was almost certainly not correct. School officials confirmed they made a mistake when reporting the information to the state. In reality, Westwood teachers averaged $69,020 per year in the 2012-13 school year, or $20,000 less than originally reported.

The confusion arose because the district had mixed the salaries of specialists in an online “cyberschool” program in with those of regular teachers, making the average pay for the latter look higher than it really was.

William DiSessa, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, said it was difficult to say how often information in the bulletin is not accurate.

“But we believe the instances are relatively few,” he said in an email.

Before publishing the latest report, the MDE did a side-by-side comparison of the average 2013 and 2014 salaries for each district, DiSessa said. The analysis revealed 29 districts that had an average salary variance of more than 15 percent from one year to the next. These districts were contacted and asked if they agreed with the data. DiSessa said only one district indicated the data was inaccurate.

Here is the Michigan Department of Education's best estimate of the 10 school districts with the state's highest average teacher salaries:

1. Redford Union Schools: $86,675

2. Warren Consolidated Schools: $83,055

3. Walled Lake Consolidated Schools: $81,962

4. Farmington Public School District: $80,264

5. Utica Community Schools: $78,101

6. Livonia Public Schools: $77,677

7. Centerline Public Schools: $77,470

8. Saline Area Schools: $76,182

9. Southfield Public School District: $75,876

10. Grosse Ile Township Schools: $75,767


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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.