News Story

How an 'Ineffective' Teacher Gets Third-Highest Pay Level

Law requires merit pay, but seniority and college credits actually set it

Pennfield Schools had just one teacher rated “ineffective” out of 124 within the Calhoun County district in 2014-15.

And that ineffective teacher’s salary of $68,921 was the third-highest salary for a teacher in the district, according to documents received in a Freedom of Information Act request and the state database of teacher salaries. Teachers in Michigan are evaluated and are given one of four ratings. “Ineffective” is the worst rating.

That teacher, whose name is being withheld from publication, is a good example of the problems with the union-negotiated one-size-fits-all pay scale that just about every district in the state follows.

Teachers in the unionized public schools of this state have their salary based solely on their years of service and the number of college credits earned.

A 2010 state law signed by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm mandated school districts give top teachers merit pay, but many school districts ignore the law.

Michigan Education Association President Steve Cook recently complained about low teacher salaries in a Feb. 10 article in the Lansing-based MIRS News.

State Superintendent Brian Whiston agreed with Cook and said something had to be done with the starting pay for public school teachers. He added that schools have a problem attracting the “best and brightest” when starting pay for teachers is so low.

A report from the National Education Association said starting pay for teachers in Michigan was $35,901 in 2012-13, the most recent year data is available from the national teachers union.

But one expert who has written comprehensive handbooks for Michigan school boards said the salary of young teachers is determined by the unions, who are the ones complaining loudest about the pay scales they negotiated.

“Complaints from union officials about low salaries for teachers are an admission of the union’s own failure,” said Michael Van Beek, director of research for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “They’re the ones who negotiate for an outdated, rigid salary schedule that makes it difficult for schools to reward exceptional teachers with exceptional pay.”