A teacher in the Eau Claire School District in southwest Michigan with 15 years of experience and a master’s degree would earn $626,415 over that span.

About 200 miles away on the east side of the state, a teacher in the Troy School District who followed the exact same career path would pocket almost $381,000 more than the Eau Claire counterpart during that same 15-year span.

Even a teacher in Grandville, just 80 miles away from Eau Claire, would make about $234,000 more than the Eau Claire teacher over 15 years.

Those calculations were taken from the 2010-11 salary schedules in the respective teachers' contracts. The state of Michigan lists the average teacher’s salary in Troy at $74,162 in 2009-10, the latest year data is available. That is more than double that of Eau Claire’s average of $35,730, which was among the lowest in the state.

Salary disparity came up recently when Michigan School Superintendent Michael Flanagan said he supported a statewide, uniform pay scale.

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Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the current system of differing pay levels is not detrimental to schools.

“In a lot of ways, it makes sense with the differing costs of living that exist throughout the state,” Van Beek said. “$50,000 a year is much different in northern Michigan than $50,000 a year in Oakland County.

“Like the state-run defined-benefit pension system for the school employees, a statewide salary schedule would force fixed costs on all districts unilaterally and reduce districts’ ability to individually manage their own unique financial situations,” Van Beek said in an email. “While it might take some of the headache out of bargaining with unions, I don’t see this being beneficial on the whole.”

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See also:

Michigan Capitol Confidential Education Coverage