Should Michigan Teachers Be Paid Like Blue Collar Workers or NBA Stars?

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


As Michigan union thugs run riot, it might be time for another look at the biggest union drain on Michigan taxpayer. Its teachers.

52 dollars of every 1,000 dollars of personal income in Michigan is vacuumed up by Michigan’s corrupt and broken school system. And that’s especially outrageous because Michigan ranks 11th in teacher salaries but only 36th in personal income.

The average Michigan teacher salary was $56,096 in 2010 while average household income was $45,255. In the United States the average public school teacher salary was $52,800 while the average household income was $50,221. Teacher salaries are still, predictably, higher than household income, but the gap between the teachers and the workers is less outrageous than it is in Michigan.

The tired line of teacher worshipers is that we need to pay “our” teachers like we pay NBA stars. That’s not too far off. The minimum NBA starting salary is $473,604. Meanwhile over 300 Michigan teachers make over $100,000 a year and administrators score in the $156,00 range.

The question is how are working class families in Michigan supposed to subsidize these public employee salaries?

“While few suggest that teacher incomes should take the same downward spiral as blue-collar workers’, most recognize that some cuts are mandatory”, a Detroit News story says.  But why shouldn’t the salaries of public employees be pegged to the salaries of the people paying their salary? And is there any other way that a huge group of public employees can continue to be subsidized by taxpayers?

Why shouldn’t teachers in a blue collar state be paid at the level of blue collar workers? The answer is that degree creep means that a sizable number of teachers now have Masters’ Degrees and expect to be paid accordingly.

In the Troy schools, a 25-year teacher with a master’s degree and 30 extra hours of education can make $99,528.

“I think it’s way over the top,” said Troy resident Jim Grix, a retired industrial services salesman. “We’ve had these huge pay adjustments (during the recession). I think it has to filter down to everything.”

Do teachers need master’s degrees to do a worse version of the same job that their predecessors in the 50s did with a much more basic education?

80-90 percent of school budgets are going into the insatiable maw of the teachers’ unions. And that is just not sustainable.

Hess and others dismiss fears that a reduction in pay will lower teacher quality. For teachers making $80,000, a 5 percent cut would put them at $76,000. Factor in an increase in health care costs and they could be paying another $3,000 in health care premiums, bringing them to $73,000. That’s a significant drop — but far below what many manufacturing workers saw as their pay was cut from $29 an hour to $14 — or worse, to no job at all.

Why should blue collar workers be forced to subsidize this nightmare anyway… especially when the results of this budget bloat look like this?

Statewide in Michigan, only 32 percent of public-school eighth graders scored grade-level proficient or better in reading, and only 31 percent scored grade-level proficient or better in math.

Over the past decade, Michigan’s public school have shown no improvement at all in teaching children how to read. In 2002 just as in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Education, only 32 percent of Michigan public-school eighth graders scored proficient or better in reading.

It’s bad enough that 80-90 percent of education spending is going to teachers in a state where the money is running low, but it’s worse when the teachers get about the same results as putting babysitters in the classroom would.

  • Questions

    The real problem are the students, who at least in Detroit, are overwhelmingly black. And black aptitude just isn't as high as for whites. (We're not permitted to say such a "racist" thing publicly). University of Maryland sociologist Robert Weissberg in a recent book argues that if anything can be said to be "failing," it's not the teachers or the schools, but rather the students.

    • Mary Sue

      I don't think that "aptitude" is the problem, rather "attitude".

      • objectivefactsmatter

        "I don't think that "aptitude" is the problem, rather "attitude"."

        Correct. Faulty racial theory only helps Islamists, and it's just wrong.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "The real problem are the students"

      And how did that happen?

      "if anything can be said to be "failing," it's not the teachers or the schools, but rather the students."

      Of course we don't need to ask why. They're just failing and that's it. Maintain the status quo until our glorious leaders build our new society in post-capitalist America.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "black aptitude just isn't as high as for whites."

      You're truly an idi ot. It's about culture, not your faulty racial theory.

      "(We're not permitted to say such a "racist" thing publicly)."

      Funny because you just did. I guess your aptitude is not so high.

      • RedWhiteAndJew

        Are you familiar with the concept of a "Moby," OFM? I suspect "Questions" is one.

        • objectivefactsmatter

          You got me without any clues on that one.

          • RedWhiteAndJew

            A "Moby" is a leftist who poses as a conservative on discussion boards, and post inflammatory messages in an effort to make it appear conservatives agree with his verbal bombs through guilt by association.

            They are so-called because the musical artist Moby proposed this very strategy.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            "so-called because the musical artist Moby proposed this very strategy."

            What scum. They project their own racial theories on to others. They just can't understand I guess. Brains too full of indoctrination to bother looking outside of their delusion-based conclusions.

            Thanks for mentioning it. I'm not sure I'd change anything I said, but it's sure worth knowing and keeping in mind.

  • Thomas Wells

    Teachers are "learning coaches". If an team consistently fails to score,the coach gets canned. However, not everybody wants to, or has the capabilities to be in the NBA. The NBA is not all-inclusive nor diverse. It is only filled with people who want to be there and to perform as best as they can. If we set this requirement for "students", and remove those in the pre-prison program, then we can better judge how our learning coaches are doing.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "Teachers are "learning coaches". If an team consistently fails to score,the coach gets canned."

      Not if liberals were sports fans. They'd blame society for the loss every time.

      "The NBA is not all-inclusive nor diverse. It is only filled with people who want to be there and to perform as best as they can. "

      Funny nobody is talking about affirmative action quotas there.

      "If we set this requirement for "students", and remove those in the pre-prison program, then we can better judge how our learning coaches are doing."

      The root causes go even deeper. The Soviet Communists corrupted our education curriculum before we got our federal civil rights laws fully implemented. It's now running on inertia and dupery, plus it suits the Islamists to stoke the fires lit by the Soviets and other communists.

  • JacksonPearson

    The educational process begins in the home. A successful school environment has to have, not only dedicated and well educated teachers, but parental involvement and support. School officials need to keep a constant communications with parents.

    Increasing teacher salaries and pensions without decent student test scores aren't going to cut it. I say eliminate public employee unions, and tenure. Don't lower the bar, but make teachers pass a competency test every 2/3 years. Get rid of paper shuffling teachers that refuse to keep up with the latest techniques.

    • Rebas Thgil

      Good to find you back on the boards, JP.

      Tie teacher pay to performance. In all fairness to them, they can be dealt a bad hand from class to class, so rate their salaries according to their ability to turn losers in to winners, flunkies into earnest learning oriented future citizens etc. Pay them for value added.

      • JacksonPearson

        Thanks Rebas. I took a long break after Breitbart changed from Intense Debate, to DISQU. IMO, Intense Debate is much better than DISQU. I had some reading to catch up on, so I didn't miss the long arguments.

        I have empathy and sympathy for teachers too, but they have to do better to deserve more pay and benefits. Education in U.S. government schools, have dropped as compared to other countries world wide. Raising teaching standards will also raise student scores. I think lowering the bar for affirmative action took it's toll not only on good teachers, but the end product.

        • Rebas Thgil

          I caught a few minutes of a show on TV just this afternoon in the same format as the old "In The Know" from the 60s / 70s. If the competing high schools sent their best, then we are in a world of hurt. Stick a fork in us. Those kids were…….model future low-information voters, to be generously polite about it.

          Had to turn off the boob tube before long.

          • JacksonPearson

            For sure, present schooling have let our children down. They've slipped compared to other countries that are little more hungry. It appears our educators are concentrating more on their paychecks and retirements, and the rest can blow in the wind.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "The educational process begins in the home."

      Correct. But the rhetoric of class warfare leads people to look away from their own accountability. Thanks again Mr. 0.

      • JacksonPearson

        Political correctness is a part of the culprit.

  • Aarrrggghh

    Or, should we just make it a communist government and scale everybody's pay according to their worth and to the size of the economy?

    This article ignores the fact that Michigan has cut school funding consistently year after year which has resulted in larger class sizes and a more difficult job for teachers. Teachers in Michigan have been feeling the pain, paying several thousands more out-of-pocket for healthcare while expecting less of a pension. Unlike many businesses in Michigan, Michigan teachers have not faced a decline in demand. They keep teaching overfilled classrooms with less resources, and most teachers I have ever known do it with a passion.

    The people who are villainizing teachers are really starting to make me sick.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "Or, should we just make it a communist government and scale everybody's pay according to their worth and to the size of the economy?"

      Hopefully you're joking. Or do you know someone who is capable of entering "god mode" to make these calculations? Do you understand modern economics? Communism is a delusion. It doesn't and can't exist. It's a fantasy.

      "The people who are villainizing teachers are really starting to make me sick."

      Nobody is villainizing any individuals. The system is broken.

  • Johnconrad

    Measure from a baseline

    • Thomas Wells

      You would have to start in the school basement.

  • MS Teacher in Michigan

    Let me make sure I understand you. The average Michigan teacher gets paid about 1/8 of the minimum NBA salary and the high-paid school school administrators might ascend to 1/3 of the salary that the lowliest NBA bench-warmer will get paid.

    So, what is your point?

    If teaching is such a cushy job then perhaps someone can explain why 14 percent of American teachers leave after only one year, and 46 percent quit before their fifth year. People typically teach because it is a calling, and even for those who are passionate about it, the job often proves too stressful and people become another teacher attrition statistic. The current hostility towards teachers is also impacting young people’s career decisions away from the field, so you can be sure that, in the years to come, the boogie-man of declining quality of teachers may actually come to fruition.

    On what basis do you compare teachers from the 1950′s and today? If you think that in the mid 20th century, before the civil rights era, there were higher than 1/3 of the children in Michigan who would have passed our current proficiency standards , then you are probably part of the other 2/3. Things were certainly different in the 50′s, but teachers are as passionate about what they do today as they have been for the past century and beyond. Pull up one of those teachers into the classroom today and they would not even know where to start with the number of standardized tests, regulations from above, and new information that must be taught (but they would try as hard as we do today to make it happen).

    This profession is a calling. This article is just name calling.

    • Mary Sue

      The argument has long been made that teachers deserve more than NBA players because their jobs are "more important". They're educating the future generations.

      However they completely miss the fact that teaching, in and of itself, does not generate spectators nor revenue in a direct, immediate sense.

      With the way they got the strap out of the schools and there's hardly any discipline whatsoever, it's no surprised that a lot of teachers drop out of the job. That's not a function of money. That's a function of societal attitudes. Perhaps localized, perhaps more widespread, depending on the areas.

      I don't know about you but to a person making minimum wage or close to it, let me tell you, 50 grand a year and 3 months of vacation sounds HELLA cushy.

      • Teacher in Michigan

        In regard to your comment, "I don't know about you but to a person making minimum wage or close to it, let me tell you, 50 grand a year and 3 months of vacation sounds HELLA cushy."

        First of all, few people who have the education level of a teacher are making minimum wage, and most with the education level of teachers are making more than teachers. Second, I don't recall EVER having " months off of vacation". We teachers have been required to take graduate class, professional development, create curriculum, prepare new lessons to meet new requirements from above and a million other little things that make it so that we can walk into the classroom in September and magically be ready to teach (despite the fact that if we worked to the letter of our contract we would not do anything for our classes aside from the 1-2 days before school starts).

        Here's a reality check for you… Teachers don't get to just work the relatively short hours a day that our contract would technically allow us to work and we don't just work during the school year either. It would be SO cushy to work just what my contract demands, but that's not reality. The reality is that we have no choice but to work well past the contract in terms of hours and days. I dare any of you teacher bashers to try the profession for a year if you think it's SO cushy (but you'll need the education to be qualified).

        • objectivefactsmatter

          "First of all, few people who have the education level of a teacher are making minimum wage, and most with the education level of teachers are making more than teachers."

          Really? Got any facts to back that up? Even if you do, are you ignoring the legions who make less than minimum wage? But making arguments with statistics often distracts from the key issues.

          If you want to be judged as a class or collective, then you all fail. If you want to be judged on individual merit, make sure that you aren't allowing your union in your name to say otherwise.

          PS – No level of education entitles you to anything.You took the risk investing in it, and it is your responsibility to reap the rewards if possible. Don't rest on your laurels. Make sure you continue to add value and ask to be judged based on that value. If you continue to rely on non-salient statistics for your justifications, we'll all continue to lose in this game.

          "I dare any of you teacher bashers to try the profession for a year if you think it's SO cushy (but you'll need the education to be qualified)."

          Nice bluff. Many teachers have the exact same opinions and don't need to be so defensive.

        • objectivefactsmatter

          I guess "teacher basher" is almost as bad as "Islam-o-phobe?"

          I'm in so much trouble.

    • Thomas Wells

      "This profession", is currently very similar to the "world's oldest profession".

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "If teaching is such a cushy job then perhaps someone can explain why 14 percent of American teachers leave after only one year, and 46 percent quit before their fifth year"

      The whole system is broken. You've failed to show that pay will help with anything but attract more individuals who might even not care of the system is broken, as long as they are paid enough to work with the broken system.

      "This profession is a calling."

      Then why ask for pay?

      "This article is just name calling."

      It got you to write your views and post them.

  • Mary Sue

    you know, that hippy teacher who sent her children to private school reminds me of a saying,

    "Never eat at a restaurant where the chef won't eat at."

  • CatK

    The problem with the profession of teaching is the union. I've spent years consulting to schools. Teachers vary. The work of a teacher is hard &exhausting. The pay modest. But, oh, the retirement if one sticks it out for the required years. This makes the teacher equivalent to a multi-millionaire in retirement. As today a private industry employee would need to save millions to provide themselves with the same retirement. And for teachers, it is typically an early retirement age. There are rumors that Obama is eyeing privately saved money money to steal. Democrats call those who worked outside of unions "rich" and evil and extoll all teachers as angelic. But they are the new "rich" folks on Obama's block (& because of the union, most vote Democrat).

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "But they are the new "rich" folks on Obama's block"

      In the 0'Bama game of class warfare, not much else counts. As you say, they're the supposed angels.

  • objectivefactsmatter

    "Do teachers need master’s degrees to do a worse version of the same job that their predecessors in the 50s did with a much more basic education?"

    If they are expected to perform their jobs with even more hubris and stubbornness, then a master's degree will help. It also created the superficial justification for paying them more, which we all know is truly the only reason they have it.

  • RedWhiteAndJew

    I grew up in Michigan, and attended Michigan public schools from grades K-8. My earliest years were spent in blue collar Madison Heights, where at the time, more traditional attitudes in education seemed to prevail. Starting in Kindergarten, phonics were used to teach use to read. A Christmas tree was displayed, but my mother was welcomed into the school to teach my classmates about Hanukkah. We swore the Pledge of Allegiance every day, and I often came home with a black dot on the palm of my left hand because, being left handed, I would reflexively raise my left hand to my heart instead of my right, and teacher was always there with her magic marker.

    I loved school.

    We then moved up into the world, to the Bloomfield Hills area, and things started to fall apart for me, school-wise. Teachers were now our friends, and less authority figures. The bullies were more belligerent, and disciplined less. Looking back, I see now that with the shift to a more affluent area, came a decidedly leftward change in how education and discipline were approached. I discovered that claiming to be sick, saved me from the drudgery when it became too much to bear.

    I hated school.

    Then we moved to Northern Virginia, just in time for the start of high school. It took me a few years to snap out of the malaise that the previous several years induced in me, and I started to enjoy school again. My senior year was one of straight A's, with the exception of the AP English class I took, where the teacher was a PhD. I was fortunate to have a staunch conservative as my US Government teacher, too.

    I note that Virginia doesn't even make the list, btw. I'll also point out that during my high school years, many teachers staged "work to the rule" protests. With the exception of a hippy English teacher in my first year, who told students we could ask her anything, except why she sent her children to private school, going to HS in Virginia was a positive experience, and I managed to get a good education, even though many of the teachers obviously felt they deserved more pay.

  • ClassAct4

    If you put babysitters in the classroom, and paid them minimum wage per child, they would earn over 3 times what the current teachers earn. Teachers and Administrators in Sandyhook gave their lives to protect their students. Do you still feel these personal insults are warranted?

    • ClassAct4

      In addition, this article is based upon 2009 data. As of 2012, most Michigan teachers have taken paycuts of 10% or more; have a 20% co-pay for medical insurance; pay 3% for retiree health; have to pay in additional money into their pensions. It would be interesting to look at these same statistics based upon 2012 data.

  • 3rd grade teacher

    I would like to ask Mr. greenfield if he has shared this article with the men and women who provided him with an education? An education that allows him to write about his opinion ,albeit, an opinion that enrages me. I am a third grade teacher in a title I building, which means 65% of my students receive a free and reduced lunch/breakfast. I "work" from 8:30-3:30, but arrive at 7:30 and leave at 4:45 and proceed to check, plan, and research for about an hour or two every single night. I work harder than most people I know in various other professional careers.

    I totally believe that if my students aren't achieving at some of the ridiculously high levels they are required to, it certainly is not because I'm not working hard enough. Perhaps it has to do with the homes that my students go to each night. Are they being read to at night? Are they being given boundaries? Are they being taught to value learning and studying? Ironically, my most successful students always come from homes where parents value and reinforce their learning. It's not rocket science…. The breakdown of the family and poor parenting is to blame for the majority of our failing schools. My school is full of hard working, caring, and loving men and women who would also take a bullet for the boys and girls in their classrooms.

    Mr Greenfield's article literally brought tears to my eyes. I feel so unappreciated and unvalued after reading his article. I've wasted too much time tonight reading such biased bull crap…. I've got to go check some papers and prepare for the amazing day of learning I will provide tomorrow to 22 little 8 year olds.