News Story

Big Enrollment Decline + Small Staff Decline = Stagnant Teacher Salaries

Downsizing is hard, but failing to do so after big enrollment declines is harder

An ongoing feature of political debates that revolve around Michigan public education is individual teachers making claims that they have not received pay increases. Teachers unions often make similar claims. In most but not all cases, actual data from school districts and the state tell a different story.

Less common is school officials making such claims. But in Morenci Area Schools, a small school district in Lenawee County near the Ohio border, Superintendent Mike McAran said that school employees have not had a salary increase since the 2005-06 school year.

A review of Morenci teacher salaries shows they have been stagnant since 2013-14, the first year Michigan Capitol Confidential started tracking teacher pay. According to the district’s union contract, teachers agreed to an 8 percent wage reduction in 2014-15.

A math teacher who started teaching at Morenci in 2009-10 made $43,383 in 2013-14 and was paid $43,247 in 2017-18. The pay of one special education teacher dropped from $65,801 in 2013-14 to $64,789 in 2017-18. Teacher salaries can vary year to year due to bonuses and supplemental income for additional duties. For example, both teachers cited above made between $1,500 to $3,400 extra a year for coaching school athletic teams.

A review of the district’s situation explains why teachers haven’t seen pay increases.

Enrollment Fell.

The school district suffered a significant decline in enrollment. The number of students dropped from 872 in 2007-08 to 662 in 2017-18, a 24 percent decline over that 10-year period. Enrollment declines cost the district $7,631 per pupil in state funding, which follows each student from district to district.

Staff reductions did not keep up with enrollment declines.

The amount of staff downsizing at Morenci is far short of what enrollment declines suggest was needed. The school district employed 97.79 full-time equivalent employees in 2007-08 and 92.28 FTEs in 2017-18. That was a 6 percent reduction over the 10-year period.

Moreover, the number of district administrators has actually risen, from 5.50 FTEs in 2007-08 to 7.50 in 2017-18. The teaching staff, however, went from 49.50 FTEs in 2007-08 to 46.90 FTEs in 2017-18.

The district also had more paraprofessionals (classroom assistants) in 2017-18 (7.81 FTEs) than it did in 2007-08 (7.41 FTEs).

Payments to the Pension System Increased.

Even though Morenci saw a slight reduction in employees, the cost of the pension contributions it must make to the state-run school retirement system has skyrocketed. The district contributed $651,965 to the underfunded Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System in 2009. By 2018 this had increased to $970,000, an increase of $318,035. If the pension costs had just remained the same over that nine-year period, each teacher within the district could have received a $6,766 bonus in 2018.

Per-Pupil Funding Increased.

Morenci’s per-pupil funding rose from $7,078 in 2007-08 to $8,359 per pupil in 2017-18. After adjusting for inflation, that come to $208 more per pupil.

In an email, McAran said some of the extra money the district receives is restricted and must be spent on certain costs. For example, the state gives the district extra money to pay the costs of MPSERS. That money just flows through the district and is returned to the state for those pension costs.