Labor's Voices Sound More False Notes On Teacher Pay

A regular 16-year teacher in this St. Clair County district gets $62,940 to $71,915

The president of the state’s largest teachers union claimed in a recent newspaper op-ed that a public school teacher with 16 years of seniority at the Algonac Public Schools was so underpaid he was eligible for subsidized housing from a charity.

Michigan Education Association President Steve Cook made the claim in the regular “Labor Voices” space The Detroit News gives to union officials: “In Algonac, 16-year teacher and football coach Jeff Smith recently qualified for a Habitat For Humanity house. Such levels of financial hardship are unthinkable but all too common for the dedicated professionals serving Michigan’s students.”

ForTheRecord says: As with many claims promoted by Cook, the facts tell a different story.

Jeff Smith’s total salary in 2014-15 was $51,035, according to a state database of employees enrolled in the school pension system. That is the latest year for which this data is available.

And while Smith may have 16 years of teaching experience, according to the school district only four of them were with Algonac, which hired him on Aug. 27, 2012. This is important because teacher salaries are determined by pay scales negotiated by the union based on two just factors — years of service and college credit hours attained.

Algonac is allowed to give teachers who worked in another district some credit for their past service, and this may have been done for Smith. Also, teachers can earn more by accepting additional duties such as coaching, which he has chosen to do.

Ordinarily, an Algonac teacher with three years of experience (Smith’s status at the start of the 2014-15 school year) would get between $40,724 and $46,846, depending on academic credentials. Smith received $51,035.

If Smith had worked for Algonac for his entire 16 years of teaching — as Cook implied was the case — his salary would have been between $62,940 and $71,915 last year.

According to the Census Bureau, the median household income for Michigan was $49,087 from 2010-2014.