Michigan public school teacher Krista Weber recently wrote a letter to The Saginaw News criticizing Gov. Rick Snyder’s K-12 education policies. Two of the claims Weber made deserve a closer look. The Hemmeter Elementary School in the Saginaw Township School District lists Weber as a third-grade teacher on its website. Weber didn’t respond to an email seeking comment from her.

Weber wrote to Snyder:  “Thank you for the 31 students in my classroom, who will not get nearly the attention they deserve.”

She later added:

“Yes, teachers do have time off in the summer, which many of us use to fulfill our obligations of continuing education. I, of course, agree wholeheartedly that teachers must continue to be lifelong learners. However, in the private sector, this is paid for by the company hiring the individual. I took out a home equity loan to finance my continuing education. I feel money spent in learning is well spent.”

A master's degree is generally about 36 credit hours. Saginaw Valley State University charges $445.80 per credit hour for state residents taking graduate courses. That comes to about $16,000 for tuition.

The Saginaw Township School District pays teachers with master's degrees about $7,000 more per year than those with a bachelor’s degree. For example, a teacher with five years of service would make $44,891 with a bachelor’s degree and $51,854 with a master’s degree in the district. That extra $7,000 applies throughout the pay scale, so a teacher with a master’s degree would be paid about $21,000 extra over a three-year period than if the teacher just had a bachelor’s degree.

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“To suggest the norm in the private sector is for the employer to pick up the tuition for the employee is false,” said Charles Owens, state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses. “If teachers get a master’s degree, they don’t increase their responsibility in teaching, they get more money.

“Nobody automatically gets a pay hike because they get another degree pinned behind their name,” Owens said. “You just don’t get money because you get a degree. It’s just a crock. Same jobs. Same hours. The only thing different is, ‘I have a new set of letters after my name.’”

Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s education policy director, also said Weber’s larger class size may not have anything to do with Gov. Snyder.

According to the Saginaw Township School District, there are 5,086 students in the district (including 180 at alternate education Mackinaw High) and 220 regular education teachers. That’s a 23-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio, not including 53 special education teachers.

Van Beek notes that such a student-to-teacher ratio doesn’t necessarily equate to class size, but he also says that there are many reasons why Weber’s class size could be 31 students.

He suggests that more parents could have requested Weber as a teacher, or it could just be a large grade in particular. He says that with a 23-to-1 ratio, if one teacher does have 31 students, other classes could be smaller.

Also, the teachers’ contract for the district states that teachers in third grade receive an extra $8 per day for each student above 30.

“Apparently, her local teachers union doesn’t have a problem with class sizes like the one she has, as long as teachers receive additional compensation,” Van Beek said in an email.

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See also:

Helpful Facts About Michigan's Public Sector

Coverage of School District Claiming Cuts

Reality Check: Did State Workers Already Give at the Office?

State Employee Pay Up 46% Between ’01 and ‘08

The Compensation of An “Unappreciated” and “Devalued” Spanish Teacher