Teachers and Taxpayers

The president of the Michigan Education Association stated on the radio recently that school employees have "given and given and given and given." Comparing teacher salaries to personal income demonstrates that the taxpayers who pay for teacher salaries have "given" a lot more.

The National Education Association just released its annual report that compares average teacher salaries throughout the country. For 2009-2010, Michigan ranks 8th. Here's the list:

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State Average Teacher Salary
New York $71,470
California $70,458
Alaska $69,864
New Jersey $68,703
Connecticut $68,412
Massachusetts $68,000
Maryland $65,902
Michigan $65,285

There's nothing necessarily wrong with Michigan teachers earning high salaries. In fact, even if they took home less pay, benefit packages for public employees are still on average much more generous than those in the private sector. Public school teachers are government employees and are paid with tax dollars, and therefore their wages are inextricably linked to the economic well-being of the state and the wealth of its citizens.

A standard measure of state wealth is per capita personal income. Here's a list from the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the same states above and their per capita personal income rank for 2008.

State Per Capita Personal Income Rank
New York 4
California 9
Alaska 8
New Jersey 2
Connecticut 1
Massachusetts 3
Maryland 6
Michigan 37

Michigan has many difficult decisions ahead, especially if Lansing continues its failed economic policies. Based on the numbers above, one issue that must be addressed is whether Michigan can continue to pay teachers "rich state" wages while the taxpayers footing the bill have "poor state" incomes.