News Story

For Union Dues Opt-Out Story, NPR Finds Teacher Making $27,000 Less Than Average

National teachers union database paints a different picture of pay levels

National Public Radio recently did a website story describing the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's participation in a national campaign to educate teachers about their right to opt out of paying dues or fees to a union. The story was also picked up by the Michigan State University NPR outlet, WKAR.

The NPR article highlighted an Illinois teacher who received an email from the opt-out campaign, Rachel McRae of Tri-City Community Unit School District #1 in the town of Buffalo. McRae reportedly is paid $38,000 a year.

NPR wrote: “McRae, a mother of three, says she pays union dues of $676 per year. She earns $38,000 as a veteran fifth-grade teacher with 10 years experience. ‘We don’t get paid very much.’”

But even the National Education Association annual salary survey disputes what NPR was implying about teacher salaries in Illinois.

The average Illinois teacher collected a salary of $64,933 in 2017, according to the NEA, or about $27,000 a year more than what NPR says McRae earned.

The national outreach campaign described by NPR comes in response to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling handed down in June. The court majority sided with another Illinois government worker, Mark Janus, who believed that being compelled to pay fees to a public sector union violates his First Amendment free speech and free association rights.

The campaign has sent emails to most Illinois teachers, informing them of their rights under the decision. Among those contacted are many Illinois teachers making more than double what McRae earns. In Rockford, about 192 miles north of Buffalo, teacher Susan Boomgarden was paid $91,574 and Greg Effler collected $90,091 in gross income. In Peoria, about 92 miles north of Buffalo, teacher Beth Montgomery earned $74,637.

And in Lake County, Illinois, about 227 miles northeast of Buffalo, teacher Paul Durietz made $104,662 and teacher Beth Dordick made $105,492 at Woodland Community Consolidated District 50.

And in McRae’s district, teacher Kathy Benton made $75,300 in 2017, according to is a nonprofit that tracks salary data for nearly every government worker in Michigan and other states. OpenTheBooks puts in open record requests to municipalities all across the country and then publishes the salaries on its website.

The Mackinac Center is the publisher of Michigan Capitol Confidential.