News Story

$28K Or Less For First-Year Teachers? Three Districts Pay That

Three small districts, plus Benton Harbor did last year

State Superintendent Brian Whiston was quoted in a news article earlier this month saying first-year teachers in Michigan earn $28,000 a year.

“We do want our ‘best and brightest’ to go into teaching,” Whiston said in the Feb. 10 MIRS News article. “But the problem is, why would our ‘best and brightest’ go into teaching making $28,000 a year, while other students are getting jobs and making $50,000 or more right out the college? We’ve got to do something about starting pay for teachers.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential questioned whether any public school teachers in the state started with a salary that low. It did so in an article titled “State Superintendent Claims First-Year Teachers Make $28K—We Can't Find Them.”

The article stated: “If any full-time Michigan public school teacher is paid that amount, it would be an extremely rare instance.”

The Michigan Department of Education responded with a list of four school districts that had union contracts in 2015-16 with a starting pay under $29,000 a year.

Three of the districts had a combined 25.35 full-time teaching positions in 2015-16. The fourth was Benton Harbor Area Schools, which had 139.21 full-time teaching positions in 2015-16.

The expired Benton Harbor 2015-16 teachers contract has a starting salary of $31,819, but teachers took a 10 percent cut, which reduced that starting salary to $28,637. The new contract that is posted online for 2016-17 has a starting salary of $34,000.

Here are the three other school districts the Education Department cited:

Nottawa Community School: 10.39 FTEs (St. Joseph County ISD) $28,427

Alba Public School: 12.55 FTEs (Traverse Bay Area ISD) $27,587

Wells Township School District: 2.41 FTEs (Marquette-Alger RESA) $26,790

The state had 95,440 full-time teaching positions in 2015-16.

The Michigan Department of Education cited the Michigan Education Association as the source for the contractual data. The MEA's analysis covered 438 school districts. The highest starting salary was $45,641 for the Berrien Intermediate School District.

The average starting salary in those union contracts was $35,851. That’s in line with a National Education Survey of the 2012-13 school year that showed the average first-year teacher pay in Michigan was $35,901.