Nearly 80 Percent of School Districts Appear in Violation of Michigan's Merit-Pay Law

Most union contracts still refuse to reward good teaching; Problem may grow worse if Proposal 2 passes

For Immediate Release
Monday, Oct. 15, 2012

Michael Van Beek, Director of Education Policy
Ted O'Neil, Media Relations Manager

MIDLAND — In 2010, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a law requiring school districts to “implement and maintain a method of compensation” that “includes job performance … as a significant factor” for determining teacher pay. An analysis by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy reveals that about 80 percent of surveyed school districts in Michigan that have signed new teacher contracts since the law took effect are failing to comply with this requirement.

Of the 104 contracts the Center analyzed, 81 do not pay teachers based on job performance. Instead, these contracts mandate that teachers are paid the same way they have been for decades — using a “single-salary schedule.” Under this system, teachers are paid based strictly on the number of years on the job and college credits they’ve accumulated.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Michael Van Beek, director of education policy for the Mackinac Center. “This Granholm-era reform had the potential to ensure that great teaching would be rewarded, but these early indications suggest that school boards and unions had other ideas.”

Most of the 23 districts that did implement merit pay systems simply handed out one-time bonuses to teachers based on their performance evaluations. Seven of these districts paid bonuses that were only worth $100 or less. Three districts paid bonuses of $3 or less for what they considered to be “effective” teachers.
“Many of the districts that appear to be complying with the law are really only doing so half-heartedly,” Van Beek stated.

Only three districts — Suttons Bay, Flushing and Tri County — offered $1,000 or greater rewards for teachers based on performance. One school district — Blissfield Community Schools — did completely scrap the single-salary schedule and replace it with a professional-pay system. Teacher salaries are based on performance and set individually at the school board’s discretion.

Van Beek also noted that the failure of school districts to implement this reform might grow worse if Proposal 2 passes this November. The proposal would constitutionally empower government unions and school boards to exempt themselves from more than 100 state laws.

“If unions and school boards are willing to skirt around the law as it stands now, how far will they go when they have the protection of the state constitution behind them?” Van Beek asked.

For a list of the districts analyzed, please visit: