Beware the Union Label on Teacher Pay Newspaper Columns

Teacher union president spins and misleads

The Detroit News has granted Michigan Education Association President Steve Cook a regular forum in its editorial section to express his union’s views on the teaching profession in this state.

Cook has repeatedly promoted false claims and disingenuous themes about teaching.

The most recent example was his explanation of why some Michigan teachers choose to take an extra job during the summer break.

In his July 9 column, Cook wrote: “Many school employees work during the summer. With pay cuts common in the education profession — according to state data, Michigan’s average teacher salary has dropped for five consecutive years — many educators work summer jobs to support their families, while also preparing for the new school year.”

Cook highlighted two teachers who work summer jobs: April Bieri of Clare Public Schools and Angela Roberts-Beegle of White Pigeon Community Schools.

ForTheRecord says: Many teachers in the state of Michigan get regular raises. Generally, teachers who have reached the highest step on the union salary scale, which can range from $70,000 to $97,000 depending on the district, may have stagnant salaries. Also, there is the rare school district that froze teacher salaries, usually due to financial stress related to a large drop in enrollment.

The statewide average salary for teachers has seen some declines in recent years, but not because of pay cuts. It instead indicates a generational transition in the school workforce, with large numbers of older teachers at the top of the pay scale retiring and being replaced by younger teachers just starting their rise through the salary steps.

Steve Cook understands this as well as anyone but admitting it would not serve the union’s agenda.

The two individuals Cook cited have both experienced steady salary increases, not declines.

Bieri’s pay rose from $36,640 in 2013-14 to $37,921 in 2014-15 and $41,465 in 2015-16. That’s a $4,825 or 13.2 percent increase two years.

Beegle’s salary increased from $58,298 in 2013-14 to $58,647 in 2015-16 to $59,268. That’s a 1.7 percent increase over two years.