News Story

Teachers Making Over $80,000 Say They Need Second Jobs 'To Make Ends Meet'

Educators say they cannot 'survive' on one income

One schoolteacher who gets paid $87,349 annually, and another who gets $80,472, were highlighted in a recent Oakland Press article complaining that teachers had to get second jobs “to make ends meet.”

The article was written by a third teacher, Julia Satterthwaite, who works at the Rochester Community Schools district and is described as a "summer intern” for the newspaper.

The article featured one of the author’s colleagues, Karen Malsbury, who has been teaching for 14 years. Malsbury was quoted as saying, “There is little or no room for professional growth, little opportunity to increase your personal income, no step increases, no bonuses, no inflation pay rises, rising health care costs and more requirements to take college level classes to get up-to-date endorsements.”

Except, that’s not accurate. Rochester Community Schools teachers did experience a freeze in their automatic, seniority-based “step-increase” raises in 2013-14, but the raises continued in 2014-15, with additional step increases scheduled in each of the remaining four years of the current union contract.

While the story didn’t mention how much the teachers who were featured get paid, these figures are a matter of public record. Malsbury was paid $87,349 in 2014-15. Satterthwaite herself collected $65,987 from the school district. Under the district’s union contract these compensation levels were for 184.5 work days.

The Rochester contract has 20 annual “steps” in its pay scale, so teachers have some idea of approximately how much more they will earn for each year they remain on the payroll. Some of these seniority-based raises are as high as 5.5 percent, but in most cases they run between 3 percent and 4 percent. Teachers with more than 20 years on the job received bonuses ranging from $450 to $550.

Rochester Community Schools confirmed in an email that the provisions in the teachers’ contract as posted online were accurate.

Malsbury didn’t respond to questions sent to her work email.

The story also featured another Rochester teacher, Erin Slomka, who was quoted as saying it’s sad that teachers aren’t able to survive on one income. Slomka collected $61,741 in 2014-15.

Hudsonville teacher Lori Humphrey was quoted in the story as saying she knew several teachers selling skin care products on the side to make up for pay freezes.

But according to her district’s union contract, Humphrey didn’t have to endure pay freezes. She was paid $80,472 in 2014-15. The three-year contract specified 183 work days, and also included step raises for each year. An example provided in the contract text spells out how step increases work, so that eligible teachers will get a 7.7 percent salary increase in the 2016-17 school year.

The teachers' salaries reported in this story were provided in response to a Freedom of Information Act request sent to the state of Michigan, which included a database of public school employees that are a part of the Michigan Public School Employees' Retirement System (MPSERS). The figures cited here do not include health insurance and retirement benefits also given to school employees.

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.