The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.
During the 2016-2017 school year, the average salary of teachers in Michigan increased for the first time in five years. The Michigan Department of Education reported the average salary of a Michigan public school teacher was $62,280 this past school year, up $405 from the 2015-2016 school year. Salaries peaked during the 2009-2010 school year at $63,024, $744 higher than the current salary.
As reported by MLive, the average teacher’s pay does not include benefits, but includes extra pay beyond base salary including longevity bonuses, compensation for coaching or large class size. MLive stated lower average salaries in recent years were the result of fewer raises, wage rollbacks, an increase of younger, less-experienced teachers and decrease of older, more-experienced teachers (as teachers are paid by experience) and an increase in charter schools.
According to the National Education Association, the national average salary in the 2015-2016 school year was $58,353 — putting Michigan 6 percent above the national average as the state with the 11th highest average salary.
MLive also reported a decrease in the number of teachers for the fourth consecutive year with 98,481 teachers in the state in the 2016-17 year — down from 107,609 teachers in the 2009-10 year. 92 percent of Michigan’s public school teachers were white in the 2016-2017 year, and 77 percent were women, according to MLive.
The University of Michigan’s Lecturers’ Employee Organization has been advocating for higher salaries for lecturers. The University’s current minimum salary for a full-time lecturer in Ann Arbor is $34,500, $28,300 in Dearborn and $27,300 in Flint. The administration proposed a $1,000 increase to the starting salary in 2019, $750 in 2020 and $500 in 2021 to satisfy the needs of the organization. However, the proposal reportedly offered a 1.5 percent raise for Ann Arbor lecturers, but not for those working in Dearborn or Flint.
In response, members of LEO criticized the University’s lack of investment in lecturers and said the University treated the lecturers as if they were easily replaceable. LEO President Ian Robinson discussed the comparisons between a public school teacher and a University lecturer. He said LEO’s efforts depend on how students, parents and alumni value the differences.
“If K-12 teacher salaries continue to rise at 5 percent per year … Then even larger raises in U-M lecturer minimums and annual raises would be required to catch up to our K-12 counterparts,” Robinson said. “I have found that people (students, parents and alumni) are surprised to learn that Lecturers are so poorly paid, relative to K-12 teachers. It was not what they were expecting and they do not see it as appropriate. Typically, they do not begrudge the teachers what they are paid; they want to see us paid on at least the same scale.”
The Michigan Department of Education reported charter schools employ 11 percent of teachers, but the report does not include the average pay for most teachers of those schools. It reported there were 300 charter schools, but only 29 schools reported salaries, which had an average salary of $37,096. Many of these charter schools have less-experienced teachers who are typically paid less.
With an average salary of $64,675, the state’s largest school district has a 31 to 1 student to teacher ratio, while the state ratio averages 23 students to 1 teacher. Teachers in Detroit ranked 83rd in average salary.
Elizabeth Moje, dean of the School of Education, said she was unsure how big the impact would be, as the average salary increase could depend on the varying teaching populations. She said the recent information regarding higher salaries could lead more people to take up teaching.
“If people hear that teachers salaries are increasing they would be more hopeful of getting into the profession which would be great because there are many counties in the state with teacher shortages that could use those teachers,” Moje said.
Education junior David Mark feels the profession of teaching is incredibly undervalued but said this pay raise could encourage more potential teachers to enter the field.
“It’s easy, and not uncommon, for people to write off teaching as an ‘easy’ job, when in reality it’s anything but,” Mark said. “Seeing that there is a rise in the pay of teachers says to me that people are taking notice of the powerful role that teachers play, and the value in the profession.”