There You Go Again: Teachers Union Spins Misleading Food Stamp Claim

Average $60K teacher would need a household size of 10 to qualify

The Michigan Education Association and Steve Cook, its outgoing president, has coordinated a disingenuous campaign on how poorly paid teachers are in this state.

The latest was another claim by the state’s largest teachers union that Michigan teachers paid so little that some must go on food stamps.

“For instance, would it shock you to learn that in virtually every school district in the state you can find a teacher who qualifies for a Bridge card, the modern version of the food stamp program?” Cook claimed in a June 21 opinion article that ran in The Detroit News.

Cook and the MEA have used the specter of “teachers on food stamps” to mislead the public about school employee compensation. Only under the most extreme and unusual circumstances would it be possible for a full-time Michigan teacher to be eligible for food stamps.

Here’s an example that illustrates this:

Wells Township School District in Marquette County has just 2.41 full-time teaching positions and the lowest starting salary in the state of Michigan at $26,790 a year. If Wells hires a new teacher at that pay rate, the person would have to be the sole provider with three dependents to qualify for food stamps under current rules.

The MEA’s own research found that the average starting salary for a first-year teacher in Michigan is $35,851. At that income, a teacher would need a household of five people and be the only income-provider to qualify for food stamps.

The average teacher salary in Michigan (for all teachers, not just new ones) was $61,875 in 2015-16. At that rate, a person would have to the sole provider in a household with 10 people to qualify for food stamps.

Many Michigan school districts have part-time employees, and some of them earn as little as $500 a year. It is therefore plausible that some part-time teachers could receive government assistance.

Teachers in some Michigan school district that have financial problems have stagnant salaries. For example, in the East Detroit School District, some teachers saw their salaries frozen at $61,418 in 2014-15 and 2015-16, which is just about the average teacher pay statewide.

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.