News Story

Average Michigan Teacher Pay Nation's Highest When Adjusted for Cost of Living

It costs less to live here, so 10th-highest is actually No. 1

A recent study by an Oklahoma think tank found that teachers’ salaries in Michigan are the highest in the nation when adjusted for the lower cost of living here.

When salaries are adjusted to reflect the difference between prices here and the national average, Michigan teachers on average earned the equivalent of $69,888 in the 2015-16 school year.

The study was authored by Byron Schlomach of the Oklahoma-based 1889 Institute, a free-market think tank. Schlomach said in an email he used salary data from a National Education Association survey.

Michigan’s average teacher salary when unadjusted is $63,878, ranking 10th nationally.

In 2013, the average beginning salary in the state was $35,901, ranking 19th nationally. But the state moved up the chart when cost-of-living differences were taken into account. The beginning salary that year, expressed as “average 2013 beginning salary when adjusted for cost of living in 2016,” was $39,279, placing Michigan eighth in the nation.

Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and Ohio rounded out the top five states with the highest average teacher salaries adjusted for the cost of living. Michigan’s average is over $6,000 more than that of second-place Illinois, which is $63,765.

The five states with the lowest cost-of-living-adjusted salaries in 2016 are Arizona, Oregon, Maine, South Dakota and Hawaii, respectively.

The national average teacher pay is $56,383, the study notes.

Ben DeGrow, the director of education policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the study shows Michigan teachers are comparatively well-paid.

“This report confirms that especially compared to other states, a Michigan public school teaching career is a far cry from a path to poverty,” he said. “Given the significant investment our state’s taxpayers are making already, we need to dedicate more dollars to educators who give student learning the biggest boost, rather than simply rewarding years of service and credentials.”

DeGrow also said more Michigan school districts should be following the 2011 law that requires teachers to be evaluated and paid based on performance.

Michigan’s Revised School Code says: “The board of a school district or intermediate school district or board of directors of a public school academy shall adopt and implement for all teachers and school administrators a rigorous, transparent, and fair performance evaluation system.”

The code adds that tenured and nontenured teachers or administrators deemed ineffective can be fired if given a chance to improve. In 2013-14 less than one percent of teachers were deemed “ineffective” while student performance slumped.

The National Education Association ranked Michigan teachers as having the 11th-highest salary for 2014-15, making $63,856, while the national average was $57,420. In 2013-14 the average was $62,166.

The Michigan Education Association did not respond to a request for comment.