News Story

Teachers Filing Union Unfair Labor Complaint Appear To Be Doing Well

Average pay at their Macomb district $79k; $100k+ not uncommon with optional duties

The local teachers union that represents some of the highest-paid teachers in the state has filed an unfair labor practice against Utica Community Schools.

Although average salary for teachers at the Macomb County district is among the state’s highest, their union filed the unfair labor complaint earlier this month.

The average salary earned by Utica teachers was $79,799 in 2017-18, the second-highest in the state. Walled Lake Consolidated Schools paid the highest average salary, at $81,168, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

Liz Parkinson, president of the Utica Teachers Association, has said that teachers have lost millions of dollars in salaries over the past several years.

C&G Newspapers reported: “According to Parkinson, the teachers have collectively sacrificed $65 million due to concessions, and she added that they are still 5 1/2 salary steps behind, with employees not seeing a raise in years.”

Utica teacher salaries range from $39,310 to $101,956, according to the district’s union contract. Those are base salaries, and teachers can earn thousands of dollars more by accepting optional duties.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has obtained the gross salaries of all the teachers in Michigan who were enrolled in the state-run school pension system from 2013-14 to 2018-19. Michigan Capitol Confidential is using this resource to review the salary history of some teachers within the Utica district during that period.

In one example, a Utica math teacher who started with the district in 2003 was paid $73,064 in 2013-14, his 10th year on the job. By 2017-18, this teacher’s earnings were up to $96,612. But the next year, they dropped to $88,200. Such year-to-year fluctuations are common as individuals choose to take on or leave aside optional “outside the contract” duties that can add a few hundred or several thousand extra dollars to their annual pay.

As is true of virtually all unionized Michigan school districts, Utica teachers’ contract prescribes the base salary amounts in a “single pay schedule” based exclusively on a teacher’s years of service and academic credentials. Seniority-based pay increases, known as “step increases,” plateau in a teacher’s 11th year, where the pay ranges from $72,674 to $91,787, depending on number of college credits. Under the contract, additional seniority-based pay increases are earned after 15, 20, 25 and 28 years on the job.

The top-of-the-scale salary for long-serving Utica teachers ranges from $75,971 to $101,956.

This pattern of rapid pay increases early and fewer increases later in an instructor’s career is where the opportunity comes in to earn thousands of dollars extra by taking on additional responsibilities. For example, the contract limits class sizes, and a teacher facing additional students gets an additional payment of $10.50 per day for each extra student.

Other opportunities for extra income include working on the yearbook, coaching a sport or acting as a department chair.

In 2018, the Michigan Education Association did a story that identified five Utica teachers involved in a “walk-in” demonstration that was part of a statewide union protest for extra school funding. (This is when all the teachers assemble outside the school before classes are set to begin and walk in together.)

Michigan Capitol Confidential has reviewed the salaries of the five teachers identified in that story. Three of them each made more than $100,000 at one time. However, the review illustrates how much annual pay can differ between similarly situated teachers depending the extra duties they choose to take on.

KrysAnna Pericak is a science teacher at Utica. She made $105,451 in 2013-14. In 2018-19, her gross salary was $90,913, representing a $14,538 reduction in total pay.

Julie Wright teaches a college readiness program. Her total pay was $93,381 in 2013-14, and it increased to $107,888 in 2018-19. That’s a $14,507 increase.

Michele Santiago is a second grade teacher at Utica. Her salary went from $59,459 in 2013-14 to $69,657 in 2018-19, a $10,198 increase.

Anthony Adamo is a special services teacher at Utica. His salary increased from $89,643 in 2013-14 to $92,885 in 2018-19. That’s a $3,242 increase.

Parkinson, president of the local teachers union, made a total of $105,843 in 2013-14, with a salary of $105,222. The difference in these numbers was likely the result of accepting optional duties. Five years later, her annual earnings were $621 less.