News Story

District’s Teachers Work 50+ Days Fewer Than Private Sector, Union Prez Gripes

Says just one day off from Labor Day to Thanksgiving shows that teachers not appreciated

Emily Tims is president of the Lake Shore Federation of Teachers Local 1465 and is listed as a teacher on the payroll of Lake Shore Public Schools. But the contract her union has negotiated with the Macomb County district allows Tims to collect a full-time teacher’s pay while spending half her workdays doing union business. The practice is called “leave time.”

Tims, who had a salary of $81,572 in 2016-17, recently wrote a letter for Teacher Appreciation Week that was addressed to union members and shared by the Michigan arm of the American Federation of Teachers.

The letter highlights a gripe Tims has about a feature of teachers’ jobs that most people regard as a benefit: the 183-day annual work schedule.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent analysis of private sector paid leave was for the year 2012. The BLS found that the average full-time private sector employee was granted 10 vacation days, 8 sick leave days and 8 holidays.

There are generally 260 working days in a calendar year when weekends are excluded. That means an average private sector employee works 234 days a year after holidays and days off, or 51 days more than a Lake Shore Public Schools teacher. Also, the Lakeshore union contract states that a teacher workday is generally six hours during the 183 days a teacher is contracted to work.

The average teacher is not in the classroom 183 days in a year, though, being absent several days a year for sick days, doctor's appointments and work-related conferences.

A 2017 study released by the Thomas Fordham Institute found that 25 percent of teachers in public school districts missed 11 days or more from the classroom, which it defined as chronically absent.

Michigan Capitol Confidentially filed open records requests inquiring about teacher absences with some of the state’s larger school districts. In the Detroit school district, teachers missed, on average, 13 school days in 2016-17. Teachers at Plymouth-Canton Community Schools’ missed an average of 17 school days in 2016-17.

Tims’ letter opens with a statement that it is hard for teachers to feel appreciated, adding that teachers should be appreciated every day, not just during the first week of May.

“We should be appreciated for the longest stretch without a break, hanging on until Thanksgiving,” Tims wrote.

For Lake Shore Public Schools, the first day for students in 2016-17 was Sept. 6. The district had a half day on Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving. School resumed Nov. 28.

That meant the longest stretch without a multiday break (teachers had Nov. 8 off due to elections) was 55 school days. The Thanksgiving break was Thanksgiving Thursday and one school day.

When they returned from Thanksgiving, teachers then had 18 more school days scheduled before the holiday break that ran from Dec. 22 to Jan. 4. That meant an additional nine weekdays off. Christmas Day and New Year's Day fell on a Sunday that year.

“We should be appreciated in December, when holiday fever hits and all the students get Santa brain,” Tims wrote. “Some of at the high school and middle school have all news names to learn and seating arrangements to figure out.”

Lake Shore teachers were given a combined eight nonholiday weekdays off in February, March and April.

“We should be appreciated in February, March and April,” Tims wrote. “Months were everyone hangs on until mid-winter break ... and then hangs on until spring break.”

After spring break ended and school resumed April 10, teachers had one holiday and two other weekdays off, dispersed among 49 more school days until the school year ended June 15. Classes resumed September 4.