News Story

Union Official Says Teachers In Second-Highest Paying District Need Second Jobs

Five of six English teachers in one district school get more than $82k

The teachers union president at the Michigan school district with the state’s second-highest paid teachers says many of those teachers must work second jobs to “make ends meet.”

Utica Education Association President Liza Parkinson made those comments in a story posted on the Michigan Radio website Feb. 27 with the title, “Utica teachers taking big cuts in new contract.”

The average teacher salary at Utica Community Schools was $80,840 in 2016-17, the second highest in the state. Walled Lake Consolidated Schools topped the list at $81,593, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

Utica had 1,458 full-time teaching positions in 2016-17.

In the Michigan Radio article, Parkinson said the contract would make it hard to recruit new teachers.

“Fifteen percent of my members self-reported that they have second jobs to make ends meet,” Parkinson said. “That’s not how we attract people.”

Michigan teacher compensation is prescribed in union contracts and can be complex. Almost all teachers in Michigan’s conventional public schools (as opposed to charter schools) are governed by a union pay scale that bases pay level on seniority and the number of academic credentials an instructor has accumulated. Teachers can also earn extra money for accepting duties such as coaching sports teams, being a department chair, working with the student council, teaching summer school classes and more.

In the Utica contract, a teacher who is required to attend a civic function collects an extra $23 an hour.

Michigan Capitol Confidential analyzed the six teachers listed in the English department at one of the schools covered by the Utica union contract.

One teacher, according to her LinkedIn account, began working in the district in 2010, and had work experience that included another administrative job outside the district.

That teacher made $51,910 in 2013-14. Three years later, her pay was $67,407, up 29.9 percent.

Another teacher in that same department saw a pay raise of just $653 between 2013-14 and 2016-17. That teacher’s pay increased from $90,252 to $90,905, an increase of less than 1 percent. Stagnant compensation like this is the norm for long-serving teachers who have reached the top of the union pay scale. Depending on number of academic credentials a teacher has accumulated, Utica salaries top out at $75,971 to $101,956.

The pay of another high-seniority Utica teacher declined from $93,357 in 2013-14 to $4 less than that in 2016-17. The change was likely due to differences in the extra duties.

Another teacher’s salary increased from $95,743 to $101,175 over that same three-year period, a 5.7 percent increase.

A fifth teacher’s salary increased from $90,620 in 2013-14 to $92,400 in 2016-17, a 2 percent increase.

For teachers who weren’t at or near the top of the pay scale, salary increases were more substantial. The salary the sixth teacher examined for this article increased from $72,994 in 2013-14 to $82,670 in 2016-17, a 13.3 percent increase.

As the 2018 state election cycle heats up, discussions of teacher salaries will likely do the same, because “instructional expenditures" account for about 60 percent of a typical public school’s operating expenses.

The salaries in this story were obtained in response to Freedom of Information Act requests submitted to the state’s Office of Retirement Services. Salaries were also reviewed at, a nonprofit that has posted several years’ worth of salary data for nearly every government worker in Michigan and other states.

Examining a random selection of other Utica teacher salaries reinforces the impression given by the pay rates of one school’s English department described above.

Teachers at the top of the pay scale saw salaries plateau at about $90,000-plus a year, while those still moving up the pay scale saw very large pay hikes.

One teacher saw her salary go from $74,577 in 2013-14 to $96,577 in 2016-17, a 29.5 percent increase. That compensation probably included extra pay for accepting additional duties.

Another teacher’s salary rose from $74,269 in 2013-14 to $82,358 in 2016-17, a 10.9 percent increase.

One Utica teacher heads a particular program, contributing to a substantial pay hike from $34,031 in 2013-14 (her first year teaching at Utica) to $65,858 in 2016-17, an increase of 93.5 percent. Her salary jumped more than $31,000 due to a combination of having more seniority, adding a master’s degree and heading up a student activities program.

Parkinson didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

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.