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The Mackinac Center Fights For Liberty

Mackinac Center Investigative Analysts
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Merit Pay

Education Policy Director Michael Van Beek reported over the summer that Blissfield Schools and the St. Clair Intermediate School District are the latest districts in Michigan to transition away from “an industrial-era assembly line” method of compensation toward one that treats teachers as professionals and rewards them individually based on performance.

There is a growing movement toward merit-based pay, though only about
15 percent of schools nationwide have adopted it thus far. The Oscoda and Suttons Bay districts took this step in 2011, under the rationale that teachers should be rewarded based on student achievement rather than on years in the classroom and number of pedagogic credentials gained. The majority of schools continue to employ the outdated uniform single-salary schedule to determine teacher compensation.

One of the first moves toward merit pay in Michigan came after then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a new law inspired by President Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative. The new law required that student performance be viewed as a “significant factor” in contract negotiations over teacher pay.

Additional reforms passed during Gov. Rick Snyder’s time in office continued the move toward merit-pay trend in Michigan. Among them was doing away with the “Last In First Out” method of bargaining, which eliminates seniority as a way of determining teacher layoffs and recalls. Teachers unions are also now banned from bargaining over the “development, content, standards, procedures, and implementation” of performance-based compensation.

Union Boss Pay

As school districts move toward paying teachers based on achievement and performance, their bosses continue to reap the rewards of Michigan’s forced dues regime. Iris Salters, former Michigan Education Association president, received $235,447 in 2011, the last year for which data is available. That trailed only the head of the New York State Teachers Union, whose organization has three times as many teachers as the MEA.

Stephen Cook, current MEA president, received $196,594 as vice president in 2011, more than the teachers union presidents in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota and Illinois.

David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan, received $131,123 in 2011.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, saw her base salary jump from $342,520 in 2010 to $407,323 in 2011, while Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Association of Education, went from $298,387 to $362,644 in that span. Overall compensation for the two was even higher, with Weingarten at $493,859 in 2011 and Van Roekel at $460,060.

SEIU Dues Skim

Although Gov. Snyder signed into law a bill declaring home-based caregivers are not public employees and therefore not subject to collective bargaining, the Service Employees International Union continues to skim “dues” money from Medicaid stipends intended to help Michigan’s most vulnerable residents. The union so far has taken more than $31 million during this six-year scheme. A recent study shows that most of the people caught up in the forced unionization are family members caring for loved ones.

The union filed a lawsuit to block the new law, and a federal judge from Detroit granted a preliminary injunction, meaning the dues skim will continue until at least February. The SEIU argued in court that the union needed the money for political speech.


Absent any changes in Congress, Americans will be slammed with a nearly $500 billion tax increase on Jan. 1, 2013. The impact of “taxmaggedon” on Michigan will be some $14.3 billion. A study by the Heritage Foundation indicates the hit on Michigan taxpayers will range from a low of $1,536 per person in Congressional District 14 to a high of $3,800 per person in Congressional District 11. The statewide average will be $2,801 per person.

For more information on the study, see www.mackinac.org/17131.