News Story

Michigan’s $62,170 Average Teacher Pay Not Very Revealing

The highest average was $81,641, at a district where instructors top-out at nearly $102K

The average teacher salary in Michigan was up in 2019-20 for the second year in a row, rising to $63,553.

In the 2018-19 school year, the average pay was $62,170, up from $61,908 in 2017-18.

But that doesn’t mean every teacher in Michigan got a pay raise, and statewide averages aren’t a very useful lens for examining the overall teacher compensation landscape in this state.

For example, Liza Parkinson is on the Utica Community Schools payroll as a teacher, but her real full-time job is as president of the local teachers union. Parkinson gets paid by the district but is on a full-time release to the union, meaning she teaches no classes and instead spends all her work time on union business.

Parkinson’s salary under the district’s teachers union contract was $105,843 in 2013-14, and it rose to $106,552 in 2019-20. But like many high-seniority school employees, even the local union president gets no more base-pay increases once she hits the top of the union pay scale.

This is the situation for many Utica teachers who have received few increases in gross pay for six years, and generally collect between $89,000 to $105k annually.

The highest-seniority teachers can also experience a reduction in gross pay if they had been performing optional duties not required by the union contract and discontinue doing them. For example, a teacher who coaches a sports team or supervises a club can earn thousands of extra dollars.

The highest base salary for a Utica teacher is $101,956 under the district’s current union contract. By accepting optional duties, teachers can boost this by a meaningful amount.

For example, Utica’s highest paid instructor collected $121,741 in the 2015-16 school year. In recent years, the least he earned was $104,926 in 2013-14. In 2019-20 he collected $114,051.

Before their pay reaches its peak under the union-negotiated pay scale, periodic pay hikes come to instructors at a steady pace. These regular hikes, known as step increases, brought one Utica schools' elementary teacher who had been collecting $68,532 in 2013-14 up to $85,909 in 2019-20. That was a $17,377 increase in gross pay over a six-year period, or a bump of 25%.

Utica Community Schools is among Michigan’s highest paying districts. But the pattern of regular and hefty pay hikes as a teacher progresses up the union pay scale, followed by stagnation after “topping out,” is the norm at all of Michigan’s conventional unionized school districts.

For example, the superintendent at Eau Claire Public Schools, near the Indiana border, earned $115,870 in 2019-20, which was less than what Utica’s highest-paid teacher made in 2015-16.

The average teacher salary at Eau Claire was $49,149 in 2019-20, or 60% of Utica’s $81,641 average.

The dollar amounts of the periodic step increases are smaller too. A high school teacher at Eau Claire saw his gross pay increase from $33,759 in 2013-14 to $51,995 in 2019-20, a 54% increase over that six-year period.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.