Michigan public school teachers who are facing pay freezes and pay cuts might be surprised to know that the dues they pay that go to their national unions helped give the national presidents raises of 19 percent and 22 percent in 2011.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten had her base salary increase from $342,552 in 2010 to $407,323 in 2011 while National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel's base salary jumped from $298,387 in 2010 to $362,644. The salary information was taken from the unions most recent LM-2 reports.
Van Roekel's total compensation went from $397,721 to $460,060 from 2010 to 2011, while Weingarten’s total compensation jumped from $428,284 in 2010 to $493,859 in 2011.
Those raises came as both unions lost membership.
Spokespeople for both national teachers unions didn't respond to emails seeking comments.
"I find the amounts of money they are getting astronomical and largely unwarranted," said Susan Westlake, a former secretary who worked for the Fraser Public Schools before retiring in 1985. "But they don't have anything to do with education any longer. That's what bothers me. How can they fight for someone's rights who are in the classroom educating when they don't have any relationship to that environment anymore? They are working literally as politicians. If their constituency wants to pay them that type of money, I think they are crazy."
John Ellsworth, a teacher in the Grand Ledge Public Schools, said the need for high-paid national advocates was necessary.
"Public education is vital for the preservation and growth of our nation and its economy," Ellsworth said in an email. "Leaders of the national teachers' union try to rally people behind this truth. I wish we had people serving in government who recognized the importance of public education, but instead children and teachers need their own advocates since politicians abandon public education so readily.
"Leaders of national teachers unions taking raises around 20 percent when they are already well into six-figures surprises me," Ellsworth said. "Maybe public education teachers are doing better nationally than in Michigan, but as a Michigan teacher I can only dream of such a big raise. It frustrates me some that there was a big increase, but it frustrates me more that people elect anti-education folks to state legislatures and Congress, making it necessary for there to be a well-paid advocate for public education, teachers, and children."