Traverse City Teacher Contract Summary

In 2009, the vast majority of teachers in the Traverse City Area Public Schools received a base salary between $45,355 and $67,973, with an average of $56,742. The district also pays $14,631 annually for employee health insurance plans, toward which teachers contribute $87.50 per month, or 7 percent. This contrasts with the statewide average cost in the private sector for an employer-provided family plan of $11,300, with employees picking up 22 percent of that amount.

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In addition, the local union president is granted a full teacher's salary and benefits, with no teaching or other school duties required.

These are among the highlights of the current collective bargaining agreement for teachers and a few other employee groups. The school board agreed to the contract after bargaining with professional negotiators employed by the Michigan Education Association. About 67 percent of the $88 million annual operating budget for the district of 10,200 students and 585 teachers goes toward employee compensation. (The budget figure doesn't include debt service payments on past construction projects.)

Teacher salaries are determined by a single salary schedule that grants automatic pay raises determined solely by years on the job, plus additional pedagogy credentials. They're granted tenure after four years on the job, and once tenured, they are evaluated once every three years, but neither these evaluations nor the performance of students affect how much a teacher gets paid.

TCAPS teachers get automatic annual pay raises between 3 and 9 percent as they progress through the time-on-the-job "steps" of the salary schedule. All teachers, regardless of their position on the step schedule, receive a 2 percent pay increase each year as the entire salary schedule grows by that amount. Additional salary boosts of 1 to 3 percent occur after a teacher's 14th, 17th, 19th and 20th year on the job.

Employees covered by the collective bargaining agreement are allotted 10 annual sick days, eight bereavement days and two personal leave days, and can accumulate up to 150 unused days. Upon retirement, covered employees receive up to $5,500 for the unused sick days. In addition, $300 is given annually to teachers who do not use any personal leave days. Teachers may take an unpaid leave of up to two years to "explore a possible career change."

The health insurance plans described above require no deductibles or office visit co-pays. The district also provides life, long-term disability, vision and dental insurance at no cost to employees. Employees choosing not to enroll in the district's medical insurance plan still get these other insurance benefits plus $217 per month.

School employees are entitled to a lifetime pension when they retire, and also expect to receive lifetime post-retirement health benefits. Based on the state-run retirement system's formula, the lifetime pension for a TCAPS teacher with 30 years on the job and an average base salary of $67,973 (the final "step" on the salary schedule) would be $30,587, which for most retirees would then increase by 3 percent every year. An employee may begin collecting benefits upon reaching age 55, or younger if he or she has 30 years of employment in public schools.

The union contract also covers working hours and conditions. It defines the work "year" as 186 days, with each day consisting of 6 hours and 48 minutes. This adds up to 1,265 hours per year. The U.S. average is 1,792 hours.

Any additional activities draw extra pay, including between $1,200 and $3,500 per year for functions like "department facilitator" and "content leader," $22 per hour for attending "professional learning community meetings" and $10 an hour for recess duty. Coaching pays between $1,691 and $6,432 annually, and other extracurricular activities, such as band, drama, yearbook, intramurals, student clubs and dozens of different extracurricular positions draw down between $338 and $6,030. All these extras are on top of the base salary described above.

For a complete breakdown and analysis of the bargaining agreement, click here.