While teachers in Utica, the second-largest school district in Michigan, continue to battle with the administration over a new union contract, a news site reports that the district has the highest-paid teaching staff in the state, with an average salary of more than $80,000.
Michigan Capitol Confidential found that the Utica Community Schools average teacher salary is $82,065 and the highest-paid teacher earns $109,364. Those are figures for 2018-19 from the Macomb Intermediate School District and the Michigan Department of Education.
The Utica Education Association (UEA) union says the 1,400 teachers have given concessions over the past 10 years and it’s time for the district to pay up. The union contract expired last June and a vote in January on a proposed new agreement went down in flames, with teachers voting to reject it by nearly a 9-1 margin. The district’s offer was compared to a minnow.
Particularly harmful were the freezes on “step increases” that grant an annual move up in the teachers’ 28-step pay scale, which has cost individual teachers tens of thousands of dollars combined, according to the UEA. The union says the highest-paid ranking for Utica is “misleading” because the district has the most veteran teachers in the state.
School Superintendent Christine Johns claims that a modest contract is needed to maintain financial stability and to prepare for a projected 5-year substantial decrease in enrollment, though the UCS student count has remained fairly stable for more than a decade, much like the largest school districts in the surrounding area of Macomb County.
The neighboring Warren Consolidated school district had the state’s second-highest average teacher salaries last year at $81,204.
While the average salary in some rural districts stands at $50,000 or less, all of the state’s top ten districts for teacher compensation are located in the Detroit tri-county area.
Michigan Capitol Confidential, which is affiliated with the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, has for years written reports that challenge the narrative that teachers are underpaid, that many have to work two jobs, or that they sacrifice by paying out of their pocket for classroom supplies.
Photo: UEA Facebook page