Total compensation received by teachers with bachelor's and master's degrees is the same or below that of private-sector workers with the same levels of education, says the Michigan Education Association. Doug Pratt, MEA communications director, made that claim in a recent newspaper article. Pratt said that the MEA would release the data later during the state budget discussions.
But comparing education levels between public and private sectors may not be equitable for a couple of reasons, says James Hohman, a fiscal policy analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
“The problem with lumping all advanced degrees together is that it treats kindergarten teachers with advanced degrees the same way it treats Ph.D. engineers who design auto equipment,” Hohman said.
And public schools often provide a much bigger financial incentive to get advanced degrees.
For example, according to the Saline Education Association’s teacher union contract, a teacher with an advanced college degree would make $83,578 more over a 10-year period than if that teacher just had a bachelor’s degree.
Leon Drolet, chairman of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, said Michigan teachers are among the best paid in the country. According to a National Education Association 2009 study, Michigan’s instructional staff averaged and annual salary of $63,543 for 2008-09. That was the 8th highest in the country.
“They are paid in the top tier compared to colleagues in other states,” Drolet said. “This may have been affordable when Michigan was a wealthy state… but that is not the case anymore. Michigan is getting poorer.”
Drolet said that if the MEA is claiming that “total compensation” is included in its comparison, he wants to see how they figure that the teachers are paid less.
“I know of nobody in the private sector who receives benefits that are close to what public educators receive,” Drolet said.