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A Look at Teacher Pay in Michigan

Michigan is facing a teacher shortage.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Nearly every school district in the nation uses the same type of salary schedule to pay its teachers -- a schedule with "steps" and "lanes" that pays based on years in the classroom, and you automatically get paid more if you have a master's degree or higher.

Photo courtesy of the Economic Policy Institute

Our first post in this series looked at the state's "average salary" for teachers and how that number can be misleading since it doesn't account for years of experience.

Results of our teacher survey.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

We put out a non-scientific survey earlier this summer asking teachers in the state how they've seen their pay change over the past several years. (You can check out the survey questions here.)

 

We heard from 390 teachers across more than 115 districts, which is awesome. (Thanks, teachers!)

 

We'll go through the six main themes that emerged, but first let's get up to speed on the basics.

 

A primer on teacher pay

 

Public school teachers in Michigan and most of the country follow a salary schedule that doles out automatic and relatively small incremental raises for each year of service (these are called "steps") and gives a bigger pay bump for additional educational attainment, like a master's degree or PhD (these are called "lanes").  

 

The number of "steps" and "lanes" varies from district to district. It can take seven steps to reach the top of the teacher pay ladder in one district and 30 steps in another district.  There are no more yearly step increases after a teacher reaches the top step, but some districts offer "longevity" bonuses for veteran teachers.

A child at a desk raising his hand.
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio


We entrust our kids with Michigan's teachers five days a week. Yet most us of probably don't know much  about the way our teachers are paid. The truth might be surprising.

This week, Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra is exploring teacher pay in Michigan, and what it means for keeping the best teachers in their classrooms instead of seeing them flee for more lucrative and less stressful jobs elsewhere.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Michigan's average teacher salary has dropped for the fifth year in a row, and many districts say they have trouble retaining high quality teachers because of low pay.

So we wanted to know: what's going on with teacher pay in the state?

As a starting point, we have the average teacher salary in Michigan. The state Department of Education puts it at $61,978.

OK, so what does that number really tell us?

First, it marks a downward trend for five years in a row. The average teacher salary in 2011-12 was $62,613 and has dropped every year since. But beyond that, because it's not paired with any longevity data, it doesn't tell us a whole lot more.