News Story

Another Teachers Union Official Makes Questionable Pay Claims

He got $80,273 in his last year as a River Rouge teacher

A former president of the local teachers union at the River Rouge School District claimed that the district’s teachers took a 15% pay cut in 2011 and have only received half of it back since then.

“Teachers are making less than they did 11 years ago,” said Eddie Hejka in a recent Detroit Free Press story. Hejka earned $80,273 in 2016-17, his last full year of teaching at the Wayne County district.

State salary records for five River Rouge teachers, while not definitive, do not lend credence to his claim. Teachers at the district, like virtually every other district in Michigan, are covered by a union contract. Therefore, salaries of individual teachers can be representative of many.

Michigan Capitol Confidential looked at the changing salaries of five randomly chosen high school teachers at the district over the past five years, using state data covering 2013-14 to 2017-18.

All the salary figures include the individual’s base salary plus extra amounts earned by performing additional duties at the district, such as working summer school or serving as a department head.

One of the educators was a high school math teacher who started at River Rouge right out of college in 2013. As a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree, he received the base salary of $37,436, as prescribed by the union contract then in effect. With four years, he was earning $50,800.

Another high school teacher, who started in 1995, had accumulated 24 years of experience by this year. This teacher’s salary was $76,390 in 2013-14, which increased to $78,803 in 2017-18. The modest $2,413 increase is typical for high-seniority teachers who have topped out on the union-negotiated pay scales that are the norm in Michigan school districts.

The salary of a high school resource teacher increased from $47,565 in 2013-14 to $55,244 in 2017-18, a 16% raise over a four-year period.

A high school English teacher saw her salary increase from $63,329 in 2013-14 to $70,736 in 2017-18. That’s a 12% increase over a four-year period.

According to the River Rouge contract, teachers hit the top of the scale in the ninth year of employment. But in some instances, the contracts allows for very large raises. For example, a teacher who had a bachelor's degree in his eighth year would have earned $63,281 in 2017-18. If that same teacher had just attained a master's degree, his salary would increase to $78,184 in the next year. That’s almost a $15,000 increase in one year, but with an expectation of much smaller increases going forward.

Another high school teacher in the district collected a salary of $52,394 in 2015-16. By 2017-18, that teacher’s salary had increased to $70,745. That teacher also became head of a department, which would have given him added compensation.

According to the state of Michigan, the average teacher’s salary in the state was $61,908 in 2017-18. The amount of pay for a teacher can vary greatly depending upon the district. The average teacher’s salary at River Rouge was $60,579 in 2017-2018.