Contents of this issue:

  • Teacher salaries a budget target
  • Union to substitute teachers: Do less work
  • Teachers switch insurance, receive pay raise
  • School’s ‘green’ initiative to include cost-benefit analysis
  • Public can’t see new pact before board vote

Teacher Salaries a Budget Target

LANSING, Mich. — High teacher salaries are under the microscope in Lansing and at bargaining tables around Michigan in the face of a projected $1.6 billion state budget deficit, The Detroit News reported.

Michigan educators have continued to receive some of the nation's highest wages and benefits through a decade-long recession that cut some private-sector wages in half, The News reported.

The newspaper’s review of salary data showed that more than 300 teachers in Detroit metro districts make $100,000 or more, and the average superintendent compensation is $156,000, The News reported. The National Education Association said the average Michigan teacher made $56,096 in 2009, which is 11th highest in the nation, The News reported. The state ranked 36th overall in median income.

"I think it's way over the top," Troy resident Jim Grix, a retired industrial services salesman, told The News. "We've had these huge pay adjustments (during the recession). I think it has to filter down to everything."

Michigan Education Association spokesman Doug Pratt told The News that more teachers today pay a share of their health insurance premiums than in the past and that they also now must make a 3 percent contribution to retirement health care. Earlier media reports noted that several teachers have filed suit over the retirement contribution.

Many districts are bargaining for concessions from teachers, The News reported. Others have suggested alternatives, such as requiring districts to consolidate in an effort to reduce overhead costs, according to the News.

The Detroit News, “High teacher salaries under scrutiny in Michigan,” Nov. 18, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “School Funding Myths: The School Employee Concession Myth.”

Union to Substitute Teachers: Do Less Work

DETROIT — The Detroit teachers union is encouraging substitute teachers to stop grading students’ work and writing lesson plans in a complaint over wages, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Keith Johnson, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said the union wants DPS to pay substitute teachers $28,000 a year plus benefits, according to the Free Press. Currently they receive $115 a day and no benefits. The district is using substitute teachers as it works to fill 128 teacher vacancies, the Free Press reported.

Robert Bobb, the district’s emergency financial manager, admonished Johnson by saying the union wants teachers to do nothing more than babysit in the classroom, the Free Press reported.

Johnson said that the teacher contract does not require substitute employees to develop lesson plans or grade students, the Free Press reported, and noted that withholding grades could affect athletic eligibility and senior students’ graduation requirements.

Detroit Free Press, “Teachers union urges DPS substitutes to reduce workload,” Nov. 16, 2010 

Michigan Education Digest, “Retirements mean no DPS layoffs,” Aug. 31, 2010

Teachers Switch Insurance, Receive Pay Raise

SAUGATUCK, Mich. — Saugatuck Public Schools teachers will receive pay raises this year and next, made possible by agreeing to switch from a union-affiliated health insurance to a lower-cost provider, according to The Allegan County News.

Saugatuck Education Association members will receive health care through Priority Health rather than the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, according to The News.

The district anticipates saving about $3,800 per teacher per year, The News reported, or a total of $246,000 over two years. After raises, the savings still is anticipated to be as much as $90,000 in the second year, according to the report.

The Allegan County News, “Saugatuck schools, teachers agree to pact,” Nov. 19, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Most School Health Care Plans are Too Expensive For Michigan,” Feb. 9, 2010

School’s ‘Green’ Initiative to Include Cost-Benefit Analysis

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. — Calculating the cost benefits and return on investment will be part of a “green” initiative that includes solar, wind, composting, recycling and gardening initiatives at Hudsonville High School, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

In addition to a wind turbine and solar awning, the $70,000 project includes a compost pile, lettuce garden, weather station and expanded recycling program, The Press reported.

The district received a grant toward the project from Energy Works Michigan, which is funded through the state Public Service Commission to support renewable energy programs at 63 schools, according to The Press. Local donors also contributed 25 percent of the funding.

There was not sufficient wind to generate power at the time of the reporter’s visit, the article said, though a solar awning was generating 678 watts, according to environmental strategies teacher Christine Webster.

Webster said the equipment generates data that will be used in science classes and that also will be tied into a website that anyone can access, according to The Press.

“We have no other place to go (than Earth). You either do this or you all go down in the boat together,” Webster told The Press.

The district’s photovoltaic panels have generated 14.6 kilowatt-hours of energy and curbed 24.8 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions since the awning was installed earlier this month, The Press reported.

The Grand Rapids Press, “Hudsonville students study 'green' initiatives with grant-funded wind turbine, compost, weather station,” Nov. 17, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Slaves to Green Ideology,” Oct. 6, 2010

Public Can’t See New Pact before Board Vote

ROCHESTER, Mich. — The teachers union and school board in Rochester Community Schools have reached tentative agreement on a three-year contract, but the community won’t know the details until the pact is ratified, according to The Oakland Press.

At least one local resident said the public should be allowed to review and offer comment before the board votes, The Press reported.

Rochester Education Association members are scheduled to vote Nov. 29-30 and the board is expected to vote on Dec. 1, The Press reported. Both sides have agreed not to release details in advance, according to The Press.

Negotiations had been ongoing for 18 months, and REA President Doug Hill told The Press that the sides may have reached agreement because they faced a Michigan Employment Relations Commission fact finder hearing in January.

“I’m not sure either side wanted to walk down that path,” Hill told The Press.

Former school board Trustee Mike Reno told The Press that refusing to release details in advance is designed to exclude public comment. He asked board members to delay its vote by two weeks, according to The Press.

District spokeswoman Deb Hartman told The Press that the district wouldn’t release any information the union wasn’t comfortable with.

The Oakland Press, “Rochester schools, teachers reach tentative deal,” Nov. 17, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Recaps of New Teacher Contracts,” Oct. 18, 2010

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at

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