In a 2017 year-in-review story, MLive reporter Julie Mack implied that teacher pay in Michigan is on the decline. In the first item of the “20 things we learned from mining Michigan data in 2017” story, Mack reported that the average teacher salary fell to $61,875 in 2015-16, the fifth consecutive year it declined.

ForTheRecord says: This is a very misleading statistic promoted by teacher unions. The reality is that the pay of individual public school teachers in Michigan is based on two criteria – level of college credits obtained and years of service. When an older teacher at the upper end of the union pay scale retires and is replaced by a young teacher on the lower rungs, there is a large gap in the salaries.

For example, the highest teacher salary at the East Lansing Public Schools is $80,863. The lowest salary for a first-year teacher is $38,826. So when a veteran math teacher retires and replaced by someone just starting out, the pay for that position drops significantly even though not a single individual teacher is getting less.

In contrast, the “average teacher salary” statistic implies that individual teachers across the state are seeing significant pay cuts, which the data has shown is simply not true.

The vast majority of public school teachers in Michigan saw salary increases of some type in the past couple years. The exceptions are those veteran teachers who have reached the top of their union pay scale and teachers in the handful of Michigan school districts that have experienced severe financial peril.

Here are three real-world examples illustrating the pattern in 2017:

An Okemos Public Schools teacher saw her salary go from $43,630 in 2015-16 to $54,574 in 2016-17, a 25 percent pay raise.

A teacher at Crestwood School District saw his salary go from $58,548 in 2015-16 to $64,778 in 2016-17, a 11 percent pay hike.

A teacher at Ann Arbor Public Schools saw his salary go from $55,981 in 2015-16 to $60,343, an 8 percent increase.

Those three teachers were selected at random. Not all teachers in the state saw increases that large.

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As part of our efforts on government transparency, we obtained data on the compensation of most public employees in the state. This information has been used to fact check claims about salaries, verify data from other open records requests, and hold government spending accountable.

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