News Story

Thanks To Union Contracts, Recent Teachers Of The Year Saw Stagnant Pay

Once a teacher hits top of the scale, pay hikes stop or slow

The 2019-20 Michigan Department of Education teacher of the year saw her base pay stagnate over the past five years, and last year, she actually collected $2,800 less than she did five years ago.

There have been numerous stories this year about the average pay of Michigan teachers. But one thing that gets less attention is how the best teachers are trapped in a compensation system that doesn’t reward their excellence.

In Michigan’s public schools, salaries are not based on a teacher’s effectiveness. In virtually every conventional public school district, teachers unions negotiate salaries based on two components — college credits acquired and years of seniority.

The base salary of the Michigan’s 2019-20 teacher of the year did not change from 2011-12 to 2017-18. The reason: The district and the union signed a contract in which the top salary of $85,574 did not change. Teachers moving up the so-called steps in the contract, which are based on seniority and education credits attained, still received a pay increase. But those at the top of the pay schedule were frozen out of a step increase.

The total salary of this year’s teacher of the year actually fell from $92,263 in 2013-14 to $89,424 in 2017-18. The earlier figure was above the top-of-the-scale pay cap due to payments for performing extra duties, which could be serving as a department chair, accepting building-level administrative duties, teaching additional classes, serving as a driver education instructor, or teaching summer school or homebound students.

Michigan Capitol Confidential analyzed the salaries of Michigan’s last 10 teachers of the year to see how their pay changed from 2013-14 to 2017-18, the most recent year for which state data is available.

Two of those 10 left the teaching profession and became private educational consultants.

Another teacher of the year became a principal and earned $121,935 in 2017-18. This individual’s salary had increased by $12,659 over that five-year period.

Another teacher retired shortly after winning the award, which came after 20 years of teaching.

Two other teachers saw their compensation go down over the five-year period. One had a gross salary of $73,967 in 2013-14, but only $72,786 in 2017-18. Another teacher of the year saw his total salary drop from $73,109 in 2013-14 to $69,896 in 2017-18. Again, these changes were likely due to the teacher in question accepting fewer extra duties.

Three of the last 10 teachers of the year saw their total salaries increase.

One of the teachers saw her gross salary rise from $61,254 to $69,809, and another’s total pay increased from $94,723 to $97,008. The last teacher on this list saw her gross salary increase from $81,391 to $100,683.