News Story

State Superintendent Claims First-Year Teachers Make $28K—We Can't Find Them

CapCon has reviewed hundreds of contracts; never seen salaries that low

State Superintendent Brian Whiston

Michigan’s current superintendent of public instruction claimed in a news article that first-year teachers in the state earn $28,000 a year.

Superintendent Brian Whiston made his comment in an article in the Feb. 10 edition of MIRS News.

If any full-time Michigan public school teacher is paid that amount, it would be an extremely rare instance. There were 540 Michigan public school districts in 2015-16, not counting charter schools. Michigan Capitol Confidential has reviewed hundreds of those districts’ union contracts and has not yet seen a starting salary under $30,000.

The Michigan Department of Education didn’t return an email that asked for the name of one district that pays its first-year teachers a starting salary of $28,000 a year.

“We do want our ‘best and brightest’ to go into teaching,” Whiston said in the MIRS article. “But the problem is, why would our ‘best and brightest’ go into teaching making $28,000 a year, while other students are getting jobs and making $50,000 or more right out the college? We’ve got to do something about starting pay for teachers.”

A first-year teacher at Dearborn Public Schools, the district where Whiston worked as superintendent before taking the state position, makes $33,672.

A first-year teacher in Saline Area Schools would make $39,932.

Eau Claire Public Schools has one of the lowest pay scales in the state. The top of the scale for a teacher there is $58,714, according to the union contract. A first-year teacher makes $32,528 a year.

But while teachers everywhere may start with a relatively low salary, they generally advance quickly up the pay scale.

MLive published a story in 2013 profiling new teachers at the Muskegon school district.

Lindsay Boone was listed as a new teacher. A starting salary for a teacher at Muskegon in 2013-14 would be $36,926, according to the union contract. In 2015-16, two years later, Boone was getting a base teaching salary of $46,041, according to a state database of teacher salaries.

Kirk Carlson, another new Muskegon teacher in 2013-14 mentioned in the article, made $44,614 in his third year on the job, the 2015-16 school year.

Those salaries are in line with what Michigan Capitol Confidential found for a series of reports published in 2016. The Mackinac Center submitted Freedom of Information Act requests for teacher salary data from 2010-11 to 2014-15 for the largest school districts in the state. That data showed young teachers saw their salaries climb while the pay for teachers at the top of the pay scale who made $70,000 to $80,000 was static.

For instance, in 2010-11 new Ann Arbor teachers started at $39,276. By 2014-15, four years later, they were getting $48,643, according to district documents.

The National Education Association publishes regular nationwide teacher pay surveys. Its most recent one has figures from 2012-2013 that show the average first-year teacher pay in Michigan at $35,901, compared to a national first-year average of $36,141.