News Story

This Is What It’s Like When Media Covers Teachers In America

Expect a distorted picture

A Time magazine series profiled teachers across the country and claimed the educators had to deal with low pay. The series featured one Michigan teacher in Flint who earned $78,054 a year and claimed it was “so difficult” to save any money.

One online version of the story’s introductory headline read: “Exactly How Teachers Came to Be So Underpaid In America.”

The teachers cited as examples in the piece all earn far more than the median income of their communities.

The main story’s headline focused on a teacher’s quote: “I Work 3 Jobs And Donate Blood Plasma to Pay the Bills: This Is What It’s Like to Be a Teacher in America.”

That teacher was Hope Brown of Woodford County High School in Versailles, Kentucky. The original story did not report that Brown’s salary is $55,465. The median household income in Versailles is $38,613, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Time added Brown’s salary to the online story after Michigan Capitol Confidential contacted reporter Katie Reilly to ask why it was not included. Brown’s salary was included in another profile Time ran on the Kentucky teacher.

In her story, Brown claimed she had to take a sick day because she didn’t have enough gas in her car to make it to school.

The magazine also used teachers around the country as case studies, including Michigan teacher Jessyca Mathews.

Mathews works at Carman-Ainsworth High School in Flint. She also lives in the city of Flint. Her salary was $78,054 in 2016-17, which includes about $4,500 extra for coaching a sports team. That salary is more than triple the median household income in Flint ($25,640), according to the Census Bureau.

“I make $78,000 a year, but saving is just so difficult right now,” Mathews was quoted as saying in her profile.

The average teacher salary in Michigan was $62,280 in 2016-17, the most recent year for which data is available from the Michigan Department of Education. But salaries can vary drastically from school district to school district.