Michigan’s new state Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Whiston recently said teachers need higher pay, especially those just starting out. He repeated his claim on the WKAR-TV show “Off the Record.”

On that program, former Republican state Senator Bill Ballenger asked Whiston, “What is the teacher mill like right now. Is it turning out enough teachers?”

Whiston responded: “We are starting to see a shortage because over the last few years I think people have kind of been turned off by going into education because of the battles and the financial crises that have faced education and the lower starting wages. … We have seen a drop off. Before you might have 20 people applying for a handful of jobs now maybe you have five or 10 so we have seen a significant reduction.”

FortheRecord says: According to state data, 29,000 people became certified to teach in Michigan from 2010 to 2013.

In 2014, there were 101,000 teachers employed by Michigan public schools. In other words, over a four-year period, the number of new people who became qualified to teach was equal to 28.7 percent of the number of current teachers. This does not sound like a recipe for an imminent teacher shortage.

As for Michigan teacher salaries, they are the product of union labor contracts, and are almost exclusively determined by years on the job and the number of academic credits. Therefore, no matter how skilled or educated, beginning teachers all start out at the bottom of the pay scale. Moreover, nothing prohibits the worst teacher in a district from getting the highest pay, or the best teacher getting the least.

This is essentially the same model as the one adopted in the 20th century for unionized assembly line workers, and persists in public schools because it's what the teachers unions bargain for.

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