Dear teacher: We want to hire you. Here’s a huge pay cut. Sincerely, unions.

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In Detroit, as many as 260 classroom teacher positions are unfilled in the state’s largest district, prompting a shortage so severe that substitutes last year were the full-time solution in more than 100 classrooms.

And with fewer new teachers are graduating from college every year, pressure is mounting to find qualified teachers. The situation has left teachers working harder in overcrowded classrooms for underwhelming pay –  they’ve seen their pay frozen and cut repeatedly in a district that’s beset with problems both financial and academic.

Yet in the face of a supply and demand problem, the Detroit teachers, like their peers in numerous Michigan school districts, have bargained for contracts that severely restrict the pay of the folks who could help alleviate the shortage.

In Detroit, Dearborn and Roseville, new teachers can only get credit for two years’ experience they accrued working in other school districts. In Grand Rapids it’s five years, in Lansing it’s eight.

It's difficult to gauge whether the restrictions affect teacher recruitment because they may scare away potential applicants. But for those who are considering a move, the impact is huge.

Say you’re a teacher with 10 years’ experience at Utica schools, which had layoffs last year. To work in Detroit, you’d have to accept nearly $36,000 less, going from more than $78,500 to just under $43,000 because eight years’ of experience wouldn’t count.

Detroit already pays less, with teachers topping out at $65,265 after 10 years, compared with well over $78,000 in most districts. But the restriction put in place by the teachers –  and agreed upon by the administration –  makes that cut even more steep.

Union rules

In a number of Michigan school districts, teachers have negotiated to limit the pay of new hires, ensuring they cannot get full credit for prior teaching experience. In other districts, those decisions are left to the administration. In most cases "max pay" refers to salaries of teachers with master's degree plus 30 additional hours of graduate education who have the maximum number of years of experience. Below are the 25 largest districts in the state. The restrictions were more common among the 21 districts that surround Detroit, with more than half calling for limits on credit for teaching experience.


DistrictMaximum years of creditYears to top of scaleMax pay
Ann Arborfull11$80,769
Chippewa Valleyfull12$89,443
Grand Rapids5*12$68,042
Warren Consolidatedfull12$94,700
Walled Lakefull15$90,362
L'Anse Creusefull16$84,386
Forest Hillsfull28$84,590
Traverse Cityfull20$74,819
Huron Valley5*17$75,915
Port Huronfull13$69,831
Grand Blancfull12$73,588

*In some cases, the union contracts allow districts to acknowledge additional years of experience.


Source: Collective bargaining agreements.


There’s little wiggle room because the collectively bargained contracts set salaries exclusively by experience and education. Critics say the restrictions put teachers’ interests ahead of students.

“School districts that want to attract the best teachers… for their students would not want these kinds of policies,” said Ben DeGrow, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center, a free-market think tank based in Midland. It has been frequent critics of teachers’ unions.

Ivy Bailey, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said the language has been in the contract for years and acknowledges those teachers who’ve suffered through years of pay cuts and freezes.

“You have teachers who stayed here and endured it all,” she said. “They care about the children and they’ve stuck it out.”

Bailey said the contract allows the district more latitude when trying to hire teachers in critical areas such as special education. Those specialty areas can salary credit for up to eight years’ experience.

But if it’s not in a critical area, no dice. And that’s been a problem for principals wanting to fill vacancies such as Jeffrey Robinson, principal at Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy on Detroit’s west side.

“On three separate occasions, we got people who got past the onboarding process, right to the point where they were ready to sign the contract. Then they took a better offer because the salaries are just not competitive,” Robinson told Detroit Journalism Cooperative reporting partner Chalkbeat Detroit recently.

MORE COVERAGE: Just another Tuesday for 37 first-graders with no music or art or gym 

Despite the obstacles in pay and a push by officials some to consider uncertified teachers, district spokeswoman Chrystal Wilson said the district “is committed to hiring certified teachers.”

Detroit is not the only district with restrictions. They are found in union contracts at districts large and small, wealthy and poor, urban and suburban and are the result of the anger stemming from pay cuts and freezes that have taken a huge chunk out of the earning power of teachers who have worked for years in troubled districts.

Not found everywhere

Bailey said it’s common for teachers who change districts to get less than full credit for their experience.

“We can’t do it when we go to another district, either,” she said. “Nobody’s going to give you all of your time.”

But a survey of teacher contracts from more than 40 districts around the state show that many allow district administrators to grant full credit.

In  Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Ferndale, Warren Fitzgerald, Warren Van Dyke, South Redford, Utica and others, a teacher could jump to the top of the scale without the teachers union contract prohibiting it.

In the Grosse Pointe schools, which pays among the best in the state, new teachers can be hired at the 13th of a 14-step salary schedule.

Yet in other places, teachers have put the brakes on salaries. Those that have are communities suburban and urban, wealthy and poor. In Oak Park, just north of Detroit, the teachers’ contract has a provision that says all new hires should be hired at beginners’ wages.

Hiring at higher levels “puts financial pressure on the district and creates an environment which disenfranchises staff currently restricted by contractual step freezes," according to the contract.

The Walled Lake schools in Oakland County, the 10th largest district in the state, had restrictions in prior contracts. But the union agreed to take them out a few years ago even though they continue to encourage the district to hire teachers at as low a step as possible.

Still, the union recognized the need to give the district more flexibility.

“It makes it really hard to have one blanket policy for every opening,” said Daryl Szmanski, president of the teachers’ union in Walled Lake. “As a teacher shortage looms, it’s going to be harder and harder to get good candidates.”

To be sure, restrictions on teacher pay for outsiders is hardly the only factor in teacher shortages in parts of the state. It’s difficult to say if it’s even a major factor. Stagnant state funding for education, a steep drop in enrollment in teacher preparation programs, and sometimes harsh public and political rhetoric directed toward public education almost certainly also play a role in the shortage. So too, there are far fewer substitute teachers available to fill in when permanent teachers are absent.

But for unions, the teacher shortage presents two bad choices: Be unhappy about crowded classrooms or be unhappy that new teachers make more money.

For the Mackinac Center’s DeGrow, the decision should be easy: Door No. 2.

“This kind of policy is just an obstacle for getting the best talent in the classroom,” DeGrow said. “The kids (in Detroit) are already as a disadvantage. Why would we want to make it harder to bring qualified teachers in?”

Need ‘best teachers’

Brad Banasik, director of labor relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said he’s not heard complaints about the contracts, but noted that he thinks “administrators would like the ability to hire some on the higher step (pay level).”

Some unions agree. Doug Hill is a veteran teacher who’s now president of the Rochester teachers’ union in Oakland County and he said he’s aware of the painful cuts at other districts.

Hill’s union decided in a recent negotiation to remove a restriction on pay for counselors who held teaching certificates. The district had seen positions go unfilled but now can hire teachers in at whatever level experience they want.

“I can see both sides of this,” Hill said, but added “we’re trying to get the best teachers to put in front of students.”

Union officials say they asked for –  and got –  the restrictions because they say without it their veteran teachers would be demoralized by having new hires, who had not endured the same pay cuts and freezes, make more money doing the same work.

It would be hard to determine how often these provisions have hurt districts like Detroit and Dearborn. If  teachers know they’d have to take a $20,000 or $30,000 pay cut, would they even apply? And they’d likely know: All Michigan districts are required to post their teacher contracts online; Bridge did its survey using this easily-to-access information.

“I think they’re very aware of what’s out there,” Rochester’s Hill said.

For Detroit and other districts, that may be a problem.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Thu, 06/15/2017 - 9:01am

Enrollment in the schools of education at both a Eastern and Western Universities is down about 50%. This has more to do with state voted changes in teacher benefits and the impact of right to work legislation laws than restriction on transferring between districts. Expect teacher shortages to grow rapidly in the coming years.

Sandy Olsen
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 6:29pm

So true.

Grove Sandrock
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 11:09pm

I agree, the shortages will get worse as the legislature keeps attacking the teaching profession.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 6:56am


Fri, 06/16/2017 - 8:42am

The teaching profession has been so demonized by politicians, the news media and various organizations and individuals with a axe to grind it is no surprise that there is less interest in teaching as a career.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 6:08pm


Fri, 06/16/2017 - 9:52am

Show your survey results! I doubt many Ed majors even know what right to work means! Besides who's stopping anyone from joining your union?

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 6:12pm

Instead of trying to shout him down, why not try to refute his point? Why not look at the latest reports from each university in their college of Ed enrollment numbers? Where did he say anyone was stopping them from joining?? You've demonstrated precisely the reason that education enrollment is down: Unjustified and bloviating rhetoric.

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 10:48am

Max, pointing at dropping enrollment for ED programs doesn't prove his or your contention nor identifies any reasons to explain it, there is nothing to refute! Speaking of bloviation! Maybe students have just recognized meager questionable value of this major?

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 5:58pm

No, you are absolutely correct. (Sarcasm) Precipitous drops in enrollment in schools of education point to lots of young people WANTING to go into that field. (Again, sarcasm) The reasons that explain it have been public for over a decade: vilification of teachers; devaluing of the profession by those not in it (especially those that make laws regarding it); degrading workplace rights/protections; ever-expanding list of requirements/hoops-to-jump/ever-changing-test-targets; equating education with business model; cuts; pension abolition; RTWFL which was a major news story for quite a period of time. You make the assumption that those entering a profession don't take time to learn about its positives, negatives and laws/regulations?? And yes, they realize the meager return on investment because that too has played out in public in the budget cuts etc.

So, your meme like retorts sadly don't measure up to the original statement made by Tom, nor do they force mine to be bloviation. What you've done is expose probable ignorance on your part, and worse, what appears to be a willingness to hold dearly to that ignorance rather than gather the facts.

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 10:10am

You got that right...!!!

Kathleen A Kelso
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 9:02am

Restrictions on years of service to enter a new district have been in place for many years. That is not the main problem as to why there is a lack of teachers. Lack of respect, attacks by the legislature, and lack of acknowledgment of teaching as a profession have left present teachers and future teachers seeking a better way to make a living. Teachers have given for years for the sake of students. Many have nothing more to give financially. It has been taken away. Those who can afford to continue to give of themselves and suffer the financial consequences.

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 10:13am

Agreed. When I joined my district 17 years ago from another district where I had 10 years of experience, the max I could transfer was 5 years.

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 3:15pm

Perfectly stated!

Grove Sandrock
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 11:10pm

I agree.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 6:57am

More truth.

John Darling
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 9:16am

Please don't make the Union the bad guy here. The bargainers are elected by their respective staff, and represent the feelings of the majority of their members. Having clear cut rules for granting credit for prior work experience is NOT opposed by staff. They primarily want clear and open rules for granting credit to all, not just a preferred person. (coach, spouse of an administrator etc.)

The real problem is that salaries for ALL teachers have taken a major step backwards as right to work legislation has been enacted and Unions slowly lose power. The stranglehold on collective bargaining is doing exactly as intended, driving salaries into the dumpster.

Our contract had extensive language long ago granting credit for experience. It was removed at the behest of the district administrators who did not wish to pay people for the experience they could bring to the district. Many administrators also felt badly about "poaching" the experienced teachers away from their neighboring districts.

How about we raise salaries for all teachers to make them competitive with the private sector? That is the underlying issue here. The legislative climate in Michigan has worked against and cut away at teacher benefits to the point where the mathematics of earning a degree in Education simply doesn't work any more. We have done nothing but dump on teachers for the past decade. Small wonder they aren't enlisting for that anymore.

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 10:48am

Well said.
Negotiations are two-way street; unfortunately this headline is poorly presented.

Ed Haynor
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 10:58am

I agree with Mr. Darling regarding his comprehensive response.
Also, in support of Mr. Darling, it appears as though the author of this article, Mr. Wilkinson has a computer-assisted background and is attempting to use his experience in an attempt to analyze union contracts through data collection to create some "cause and effect argument," in which case he lays the blame on the teachers and/or their unions. His cause and effect argument is like saying if those male teachers he met with in his study were all bald, he would assume that all male teachers in Michigan schools are bald; so much for cause and effect.
I doubt that Mr. Wilkinson has any collective bargaining experience, because if he did, he would have understood that union contracts are agreements between the teachers AND management and both are responsible for what they ask teachers to support and boards of education to approve.
Mr. Wilkinson does bring up a pressing problem, but conducting a data analysis of union contracts, then blaming the teachers or their union, is a total misapplication of his research model.

Mike Wilkinson
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 2:24pm

Actually, was in a union for over two decades and understand it is a two-way street. But in these cases, the union is asking for the provisions, not the districts. If they hadn't asked (and yes, some boards push back and say 'no' and some say 'ok'), they would likely not exist. Some districts also make it their policy not to give credit, but that's a management decision, not one of the union itself. 

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:10am

WHAT?! Our local wanted to guarantee a minimum of 5 years, more granted by Board approval. The school wanted to lower that mandated carry of experience, except with their approval. We pointed out that nepotism, friends etc. being hired will be the focus of scrutiny instead of well defined rules. I'd love to know what union you were in. Second, where in your searches of contracts do you find "the union is asking for this provision"?! I think that is a writer's Liberty there because in at least one case you are dead wrong.

Phil Fisher
Tue, 06/20/2017 - 8:10am

In the example of Detroit, the term "bargained" is a very loose interpretation of the word over the previous 10 or so years. Several contracts were imposed by state managers with very little negotiation with the union. My salary when I stopped teaching last year was lower than it was in 1999. Obviously the Union did not "bargain" for that to happen.

The example of a teacher leaving Utica to come to Detroit and lose tens of thousands of dollars a year in salary and take a lot less benefits is laughable and highly insulting bordering on idiocy. In my almost 30 years of teaching experience I never knew anyone who did that but knew many who left Detroit to go to better paying districts because they couldn't afford to stay.

Al Churchill
Sun, 04/08/2018 - 10:16pm

Thanks for pointing out that both management and the union are responsible for the contract that both negotiate. The same thing is happening relative to the current Chrysler-UAW spending scandal. Both of Detroit's major newspapers have referred to that as a UAW scandal, neglecting Chrysler's role in a disgraceful undertaking. Good job Ed.

Fran Darling
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 10:56am

Unions are not the issue - lack of union strength, bargaining tools (no strike option), and right to work --all put the district administration in the driver's seat. Yet they are the first to complain about the lack of qualified teaching staff.
Yes your article title and premise are very misleading.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:11am

More truth.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:03am

Bravo! Well said. Truth

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 3:01pm

"How about we raise salaries for all teachers to make them competitive with the private sector? That is the underlying issue here." John, I work in the private sector as a small business owner. If you think that you are getting a raw deal as a teacher, come spend a day in my shoes. No health insurance benefits, no dental coverage, no paid professional development days, no salaries over $70K-$80K with only 12 years experience on a 4-year degree with the summers off. I'm sorry. My wife works as a paraprofessional in our school district, and the teachers that complain the least seem to be the best teachers, and the teachers who give a half-hearted effort are the ones that gripe and moan about their pay and benefits the most. I believe you are naive about life in the private sector where we hire and fire based on your competency, effort, and results. The weak are weeded out because they provide no benefit in a capitalistic enterprise.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 6:25pm

Not surprisingly anonymous comment. What I keep hearing "Anonymous" is that if you want to get rich you need to take charge of your own life start your own business and be responsible for yourself. IF you work hard enough you will get ahead, and you don't have to depend on the government." So, you did. You have no profit limit, no loyalty to your employee, not held responsible for others' actions--just your own. RDUCATION is not a business. Did you have to (mandated by the state) spend 5 years in college (or more) to get a degree and certification in order to start your business? Does the state direct every minute of your day, action, requirements and who comes in your door and how they must be treated? No? Didn't think so.

IF you have it so bad and think teachers are overpaid or underworked, I CHALLENGE YOU to go spend a day in the shoes of a special education teacher, any class with students who are abused, neglected, made to care for younger siblings etc. IF you think that the jobs educators do is too well compensated, you are a hypocrite as your spouse is an aide? You have insights to the real profession yet spew "the good ones just bite their tongue while the bad ones complain" propaganda. Your misinformation and deflection is really sad. YOU are part of the problem with education (you judge educators, know nothing about the REAL profession yet want to judge) NOT unions. The writer of this piece is another problem, writes an opinion piece while trying to pretend it's factual, cause-and-effect (Union stops raises therefor fewer seek the profession) and not based in facts. I knew I should've not looked at the ignorance of some posts and let them get my ire. This should've been one of them.

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 10:16am

"How about we raise salaries for all teachers to make them competitive with the private sector?"....this is the heart of the matter.

Ann Jerome
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 9:19am

Great article! And teachers in the rural districts are paid even less. My husband has been working 21 years in a Van Buren County district with a masters degree and only makes $64,000 with higher insurance premiums each year and a $2,600 deductible. His district has not instituted raises for over 10 years and quite paying for steps a couple of years ago. When the state ties the hands of the union and the school board wants to buy new technological equipment, there's little hope for increasing teacher compensation.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:13am

What's great?! This article blames the unions for your husband's plight. Horrible piece of 'journalism'.

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 10:17am


Rich Vander Klok
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 9:25am

I'm a Bridge supporter and a teacher. I can't believe this article has been posted. There are so many grammatical errors that it's almost unreadable. Even the author's bio has an error. Where exactly can you reach the author? Rather than focus on what a new-to-the district teacher is paid, how about exploring the $30K difference in what experienced top-of-the-scale teachers are paid in the districts cited? This quote makes it clear that this piece is an op-ed rather than an article: "It's difficult to gauge whether the restrictions affect teacher recruitment because they may scare away potential applicants." If there's no proof and only speculation that these contract provisions may be a problem, the purpose of the article is to disparage unions. Considering how poorly the piece is written, more teachers should have been consulted to at least help edit if not to corroborate the piece's premise.

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 11:06am

I noticed the same problems, esp this quote, which you referenced:
"It's difficult to gauge whether the restrictions affect teacher recruitment because they may scare away potential applicants."
So .. hardly a cause and effect relationship established there!
What is being missed in this article, and what I believe is an even more important issue, is the huge disincentive for teachers to move to other schools, since their pay will most definitely go down if they move. If the maximum incoming hire service credit is only 5 years and a teacher has already been teaching 10 years, then why move to another school and take a pay cut?
The implications for this situation are huge: When I taught in Great Britain for 12 years I saw that teachers are expected to move around and gain experience .. it would be strange if they stayed put in the same school for decades. Here they are positively discouraged (financially), which leads to isolation and lack of innovation, since nobody gets out of their little box to move on to fresh pastures and fresh ways of doing things.

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 4:04pm

Nobody was moving to teach in Detroit and nobody is now. Until the state gets real about what is needed to help the average Detroit student--including extended school days, quality materials, small class sizes, supplemental programs, health and food resources, after school programs, and all the amenities that Bloomfield hills enjoys, this is just an exercise in Teacher bashing. Nobody wants to be a low end, low pay worker with 100000 in debt. Get real. This isn't about teachers' unions. This is about underfunding.

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 9:53am


Richard Pipan
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 11:22am

Bravo! Good critique.
Blaming unions and teachers for eroding support for public educators is like blaming firefighters for fires in their community....

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 4:08pm

Maybe if we actually included trained education experts with degrees in education and experience teaching in the discussion of how schools need to be run and we recognized that economic inequalities affect students resources and understanding of life, we might actually be able to devise a school system that works. But while the private sector and businessmen with none of the above work out their schemes to suck money from kids, with voucher schemes and for-profit swindles, i don't think it's going to change. DUH. Putting Devos or republicans in charge of education is a hoot.

Mike Wilkinson
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 2:26pm

Can you point out the grammatical error in the bio?

Also, it's not an op-ed but I welcome your feedback.

Mike Wilkinson
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 2:29pm

Richard, if you're trying to reach me, it's or 313-815-7068. Feel free to call or email.


Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:15am


Sun, 06/18/2017 - 10:19am

" the purpose of the article is to disparage unions. "...Agree

Donna Fisher
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 9:30am

Blaming the teachers or their unions is lame! Were it not for Unions, teachers would not earn a fraction of what they need to make just to survive! Blame idiotic Republicans who think teachers do not deserve fair living wages to begin with while they themselves suck the government teat and some live for free in government housing called "Governor's Mansion". SERIOUSLY. Every community needs to put its head back on straight and start budgeting more responsibly to attract and keep qualified teachers. An uneducated country cannot prosper.

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 1:08pm

How much is it the union, how much is it the teacher, how much is the student that determines if the student learns?
Which one of those three have the greatest impact on how much the student learns?

What does the union do that makes the student learn?
What does the teacher do that makes the student learn?
What does the student do so they will learn?

The problem with all of these comments and articles they don't talk about the value/impact each role has in the learning process. Simply saying more money is needed is no longer enough. People [the taxpayers and others] need to understand the value of each role they are paying for and how they are delivering the learning results we all expect.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:24am

WHAT?! What are you saying? Is pay too low, too high, is it the Union's fault? That's the thrust of this article...experience matters of course. Who ever said "A teacher MAKES a student learn" doesn't know squat about education. Teachers inspire, lead, and enhance educational opportunities. The problem isn't unions saying treat all as equals, in hiring, experience etc.. The problem is the decade long devaluing, degrading and demonizing of those willing to become educators. Sadly the terrible teaching environment created by the Republicans is driving people away from the profession. Even the best educators aren't encouraging young people to pursue the profession regardless of the entry level pay.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 4:45pm


You fail to read the question. There was no judgement there is was simple weighting of impact on learning rather than on money. If we understand how and who impacts learning we can better value those having the impact and how they can impact more successful learning.

You remind me of old joke about a small boy who asks his Dad 'where did I come from, and the father explains [with a bit of discomfort] conception and birth and at the end the small boy said to his Dad, 'Billy's from Pittsburgh, where did I come from." I have use that many times in my professional work. You over analyze and don't seem to understand that people build their understanding through simple and straight forward questions. If one thing I learned in dealing with people is don't assume or presume what they are thinking, they have a different perspective then you so their question is addressing something they are trying to learn.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 6:29pm

Duane, then it seems that that you'd also realize that generic questions lobbed into a conversation that has already begun need clarity not room left to be interpreted in multiple ways.

Some of your questions leave nebulous impressions, and under my interpretation I answered them as generically.

By the way: It appears you do NOT come from education ;-)

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 11:45am

It is how you define education. My formal education is science and math based, my work has include as a core activity helping people develop necessary knowledge and skills, very early on it involve technology , risk management, and decision making, risk management tools and decision making has been a theme through out including those within the workplace and those outside of it. My employer did see the importance of learning throughout the organization so they develop an internal group for education that both trained us, assisted in the development of special emphasis training program, and in how to integrate learning into a dynamic and non-traditional setting [an operating process control room].
The disconcerting part is that what I learned there was taken home and used with our children in supporting their learning.
I am still learning today because the value of learning was something a few 'good' teachers taught me oh so many years ago, the process I learned later.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:17am


K. Gillan
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 9:47am

Blaming the teachers and unions is a cheap trick.
Pay the Detroit recruits and all of their staff at the Grosse Pointe and West Bloomfield levels and I am sure that their will be no objections to paying all teachers according to experience levels. But unions for years fought veteran district staff decreases in pay and benefits in order to fund higher salaries for new staff; hired because of nepotism, cronyism and sexism.

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 10:49am


Thu, 06/15/2017 - 10:20am

Unions are not perfect but the only protection workers have. It is important to remember that there are two people at the bargaining table. Actions by the legislature have resulted in an annual $10,000+ cut in pay for teachers in our district. Over the past 8 years, that has resulted in over $80,000 in lost wages.

J Hendricks
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 10:29am

In the real world (not public education), positions are filled by management based on credentials and experience, and management has a great deal of flexibility to hire the best fit for the position using salary as a tool to induce a hire. Seems to work pretty well in firing the strongest and most flexible economy in the world.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:26am

You need to understand that education is NOT A BUSINESS. You need to google the blueberry response to education because you clearly don't get it.

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 11:25pm

You need to learn why businesses succeed and fail, and the means and methods the successful one use, because success whether in you field of expertise or not can teach you a lot about how to succeed.
Businesses succeed when they focus on results and the value their customer are receiving. Successful businesses analyze who their client is and what the results/value they want. Who is the teacher's client, who is the union's client, who is the educational administration and support staff clients? What are the results/value they want? What is the purpose of the Michigan education system? Do you think this article and most of the comments are focused on what the Michigan public perceives as the desired results?

Bob Carstens
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 10:32am

I find it ironic and ridiculous how intent Michigan Republican legislators are on destroying what has been a decent and solvent Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System.
What a wonderful way to induce bright people to become teachers !!! Instead of forcing teachers to gamble with a portion of their salary in the stock market, why aren't legislators finding ways to insure that the internet and computers are available to all Michigan children and that the latest technology is utilized strategically to enable individualized education and best practices state wide ?
Why are we limiting regular opportunities for exercise and movement instead of strategically ensuring and improving their existence ? When I was stationed in Japan from 1955-57 where class size is smaller and curriculums were and are more rigorous and outcomes are superior to ours, when I took the daytime train from Yamato to Shinjiku I often passed Japanese schoolyards filled with children doing Tai Chi like movements to music. Go figure !!! Actually, exercise is good for the brain and sitting excessively is harmful to the body and its brain !! Please Michigan legislators, become educated and innovative about education and best practices and become constructive, not repeatedly destructive !!

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 12:25pm

How is 'best teacher' defined?
What criteria is used to assess the quality/effectiveness of a teacher [new hire] with experience?
How are the knowledge and skills assessed, what is the expected progression/development of knowledge and skills and how are they verified?
In many other professions there are performance criteria used when hiring experience people, program/protocol development, results delivered, skills assessments, collaborative activities, what are the comparable criteria employed in the teaching profession?

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:36am

Duane if you are curious, go into your school and ask an administrator to show you. The criteria forced by the current Republican Party is absurd and hardly relevant. Here's an example: In order to be a 4 (on a 1-4 scale, 4 being good) on one portion, you can only score a 4 IF NO STUDENT is ever off topic. Not how do you redirect or deal with an off topic student, just if there is ever an off topic moment.

Evaluations created and mandated by a group of Republicans in Lansing with their puppet strings being tugged by Betsy DeVos and the anti-public school profit seekers are useless but the new standard. It would really be worth you going in and asking to see the evaluation tool. It isn't as easy as business "if this much $ good".

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 4:33pm

I am not looking for a formal documented criteria, I am looking for one that the professionals would use to judge themselves. By deflecting to a formalized/negotiated document you waste an opportunity to describe the value of a teacher to the public/Bridge readers. It reminds me of when the first discussion started about student testing as a means to assess schools' performances and the teacher abdicate their responsibility to educate the public and left the testing to negotiation by non-teachers, and you see where we are today.

If you want people to value what someone does you must be willing to step forward to frame the issue by providing them with a working answer to their question. I grew up in a time when the teachers were focused on the classroom and didn't engage the parents, my children grew up when the teachers were aloof from the parents telling us to 'leave it to the professionals to do the teaching'.
Your response is much in that same vane. I learned a long time ago that if I wasn't willing to explain my profession [STEM] and how it related to people in our community then they would distrusted us and acted accordingly. Your answer was disappointing and gave more credence to those you condemn.

I still ask my question. Do you want to try again and help frame the issue or do you feel so superior that I couldn't understand or don't deserve to know how to recognize the qualities of a 'best teacher'?

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 6:40pm

Duane you appear to be coming off with an air of superiority. What exactly do you want to know? The qualities of a best teacher are myriad and complex. There are countless qualities and they vary widely. First, can they relate to their students; can they effectively manage their classroom; are they masters of their subject; have they been trained HOW to demonstrate and communicate their subject; do they perform ALL these things and many more as directed by their school district/building administrators.

Then of course their are the state mandated guidelines (just one of 50 or more) like the ones that I described earlier. The mandates that allow a teacher to be kept by a school regardless of what that school and community think of their teachers.

So, again Duane I'm expecting a little more clarity. You want a meme which answers a very complex query (what are the qualities that make a good teacher) where detailed answers require much more of the question in order to answered correctly.

I wasn't acting like I feel superior, but I won't give an answer to nebulous questions. Specificity is very important, clarity and focus is a must in the response.

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 11:18am

I can tell you what to assume I can only offer my words.
I am asking because I have not been in a classroom in decades, it seems the world has changed since then, so I am interesting how teaching and particularly a 'good' teacher has changed today. What I remember was how a good teach would personalize the lessons, making them relevant to me and others in the classroom, for math they might turn it into a team competition where students were helping each other learn, in science they might talk about how we personally used it in our everyday life, for writing they would describe how we each communicate with others and how important it was to be clear and that took practice. They personalized learning, they show how it was something we individually used, they talked about how the homework was when we learned by applying what we had read or heard. They made their classroom a different place, they made it a place where we found we could discover, learn, and have pride in our learning. These are the things we heard for from our daughters, but we heard less of it today and that makes me wonder how things have changed.
From our grand-kids when they were in the early grades this was a description of teachers they really liked and how they sound similar to what we had seen in our youth, but as they have progressed that enthusiasm about individual teachers has waned and been replace with the talk of technology, and the individual teachers that excite them has become rare. This makes me wonder how things have changed, has what describes a ‘good’ teacher changed, should I be looking at the schools and teachers differently, should the expectations be changed that is what I am asking for.
In my career the world changed, technology has become ubiquitous, efficiencies and effectiveness have become paramount, the organizations have become flatter [few specialized resources], the interaction outside of the work setting has become more common. All of that has driven us to be more a tuned who is 'good' and who to rely on. We will look for someone that is more open and more comfortable communicating and listening, our employer has create training on communication how to use different forms and how to listen, so we look for that in people. I mention this because knowing what 'good' looks like helps many people, those trying to decide whether they should be engaged and if they have something to offer, it helps the individuals in their role to compare themselves to the expectations so they can improve, it frames success so those who are being ask to lend support better understand the value they are supporting.
In the case of schools, the predominating message is about disappointment and even failure, this has persisted for decades, to the point that is seems to be the norm. Why aren't you unwilling to talk about success, why are do writers of articles so uninterested in success. The reality in my career has always been about success, I learned what I call the 'atta boy' rule; you need a lot of 'atta boys' because there will be an 'aw shit' that will wipe out so many of them. Why are teachers so afraid of talking about successes, about who has what role/responsibilities in learning, and even personalizing the value of what learning looks like and what it means. Back to my professional experience, we found that as we personalize by describing what we did and how we did it and personalized its impact to people we talk to, we were better able to engage the people and gain their confidence and support. This was true inside the workplace, in our communities, and even with government agencies regulating our activities.
I learned to build my understanding and my expectations by asking pointed questions to fill in what I felt I was lacking and to build a broader picture of the roles and responsibilities needed for achieving success in the issue at hand. For I learned to assume rather than ask has many inherent risk all of them bad for all parties concerned. I know the pitfalls to answering question that have little context, but if I didn't take the risk then I knew people would not know and would presume without full understanding. I also found that by avoiding answering questions it encouraged people to assume the worst which did them and me harm.
More than you wanted to know, but practice based on what I have learned.

You can help in my learning or not, but recognize my default is less likely to match your reality. To clarify what I am trying to learn is not what the train included but what are the practices and how they relate to student learning that are apparent with the 'good' teacher. If you walked into a classroom what would you look for as 'tell tales' of a 'good' teacher?

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 9:44pm

That was very well put. I fully understand the desire of everything business related is quantifiable and measurable. The measure able things often don't show up on the quantifiable things tested for student success. Your experiences about those that were 'good' teachers seem really good and the waning experiences often are also true, with a drive by the legislature to force more students into on-line experiences that don't inspire nor truly educate.

I do appreciate our interaction and I hope that my other description in another post about good teachers was seen. Thanks for the chat :-)

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 11:01am

I have my limitations at some are made apparent by after reading your comments in this article's thread and am unable to discern a description of a 'good' teacher.

Thank you for your patience with me, since we have been focused on 'good' teacher we have not talked about the more prominent message in the thread, blame, teachers, unions, legislature. With a bit of experience in being in the target of media and public and government disdain, let me offer those on the defensive. You need to reactive defense using emotion driven comments. Start by thinking about how what is being heard not about what and why you are saying it [start by listening, not just hearing], not only react but get out in front [don't wait for article such as this, but write your own story addressing the issues and concern of those you are trying to reach], personalize [each teach and teach union official/member should be looked at as an 'ambassador' for the story], don't confront those that challenge you turn what they say as the problem into an answer that accommodates them and you, look at what you do and why and how others see/are exposed to it and then reframe it so it fits their experience, etc.
Two examples, charter school; think about why people enroll there [they offer hope, change, new experiences] and consider why they don't have that in the established schools [our indirect experience what the charter was more accommodating, where the traditional schools were and are resistance].
The other is the unions; what is the image of unions [protection of the members] and how does that fit into the narrative on educational system performance. As you hear many in private industry see there work world as more performance driven so how do you re-frame the educational system fit their perspective.

If you want to change the discussion, if you want to change the public perception, the legislatures perception, the means are available, but the issue is whether 'you' [the educational professionals] are willing to change and execute.

On a personal note, we have succeed, our children have succeeded, our grandchildren are succeeding [both here in Michigan and currently in Texas] so what you do will not affect me, but if the profession doesn't change the stratifying of my community/Michigan/America both academically and financially will become more pronounced.

Thanks again for you patience and making me think and articulate my thoughts.

Nancy Flanagan
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 1:42pm

I am a retired veteran Michigan teacher--31 years in public school. I have served on many union bargaining teams and executive committees. NEVER in 31 years as a unionized teacher in Michigan have I encountered union leaders or members promoting the idea of not giving teachers their full due, respecting their experience and education, when they come aboard.

Most schools districts would love to hire experienced teachers with demonstrated expertise, and pay them what they're worth. It's not the union standing in their way. It's a lack of resources, and the ongoing chipping away at full funding for public education. Unions want adequate compensation for all their members--first-year staff as well as 30-year veterans.

Suggesting otherwise shows a lack of understanding. Whether that's just ignorance or another carefully crafted anti-union message will be determined by the reader. Bridge Magazine does some stories well, but their education reporting is shallow and biased.

Jim Pearson
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 9:50pm

As a veteran of 40 years of teaching in public schools in southeastern Michigan I know that Nancy is correct. Not giving full experience credit to newly hired teachers is desired by school district management not the union. It is seen as a cost saving measure. Trouble is, it doesn't work during a teacher shortage. By having bargained not giving full credit districts put themselves at a competitive disadvantage. Not the union's fault.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:37am

Very well put. Truth.

David Zeman
Fri, 06/16/2017 - 9:58am

 Actually, Nancy, our reporting on state education policy is deeper and more data driven than any other media outlet in the state, which is why we've been repeatedly recognized on a state and national level for the depth of our research and explanatory journalism.

All of the major reasons for teacher shortages cited by you and some other commentors are also cited in Mike's reporting. There is no question that education funding levels, repeated demands for pay freezes and cuts by districts and politicians, and funding inequities among various districts play a huge role in why places like Detroit have a difficult time in attracting talented, experienced teachers to its classrooms. And the article readily and repeatedly acknowledges that. 

The article also acknowledges the understandable frustration that teachers who have suffered through these cutbacks would have if their peers from outside districts come in at higher pay levels.   

No where does this article place all (or even much of) the blame for shortages on the unions. Indeed, it explicitly states that the impact of these contract provisions is difficult to quantify and likely overshadowed by the other factors cited. 

But our reporting, not our ideological proclivities, found that teachers through their unions were indeed pushing for these provisions in their bargaining with districts. That might not have been the case in your district, but it certainly was in the districts that we reported on. Those are the facts. 

It's also critical to note that this article does not demonize these provisions. What it does do is point out the (no doubt) unintended consequences of limiting what can be offered to experienced teachers in schools where there are persistent teacher shortages. 

Such provisions may offer some solace to chronically underpaid teachers in the district, but they do nothing to help the students crowded into classrooms with 40 or 50 other children because there are not enough teachers to teach. That's what this article is pointing out and opening up for debate. And that's where our focus is in our journalism, what's best for kids. The fact that we try to hold all education stakeholders accountable (districts, the MDE, legislators in Lansing, charter school operators, and, yes, teachers, too) is something that Bridge will make no apologies for in our journalism.   

David Zeman, Bridge Editor 



Fri, 06/16/2017 - 6:46pm

David, then wouldn't a much more 'representative' title have been "The myriad of factors that are keeping teachers out of the profession" rather than "Dear teacher: We want to hire you. Here’s a huge pay cut. Sincerely, unions"?! That is not journalistic integrity and makes it look like unions are the problem. You all missed the target of good journalism with that byline alone. I don't believe your reporting or interviews must've been very in depth nor representative of the masses of teachers. Finally, the implication that YOU want what is best for kids and teachers responding here don't is absurd!

Nancy Flanagan
Sat, 06/17/2017 - 12:24pm

Dear David (I feel I can call you David, since you called me Nancy):
I turn your attention to the headline on the article, which places blame squarely on teachers' unions. As a professional journalist, you certainly know how many people read only the headlines and perhaps a para or two before deciding what the piece says. A sticky, provocative headline will draw people to read, but a headline inconsistent with the information presented will eventually make readers decide that Bridge Magazine is moving in the direction of clickbait.

I also draw your attention to the comments, which are nearly 100% focused on how wrong-headed the article is. In a phenomenon very familiar to teachers, you seem to believe that more "data" strengthens the subsequent analysis. It's not your nice tables of numbers that are inaccurate here: it's the conclusions drawn by your hired-gun author.

Deciding how much to pay teachers is an evergreen topic. You would be surprised how many public school teachers have pushed back against the single salary schedule--and how many of them have struggled to figure out a better way. Unions, when they are allowed to participate in setting the salary schedule (a practice that's currently endangered, in Michigan) wrestle with trying to get the best deal for the people they represent--ALL of the people they represent. That is not shocking or unfair. Ivy Bailey is right: Detroit teachers who have stuck it out, through years of chaos, humiliation, pay cuts and teaching in broken-down buildings deserve their pay. They shouldn't have to share it, in the hopes of getting someone new with experience (who may not stay).

Teachers--and their unions--have been "held accountable" in ways other occupations (including legislators and parents) would never allow, beginning with being evaluated by their students' unreliable test data. Keeping the veteran teachers we have (let's call them skilled human capital) is just as important a goal as attracting new teachers. The reason young people aren't entering an embattled profession has little to do with higher starting salaries and everything to do with media reinforcing myths about the value and purpose of professional associations for teachers.

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 9:48pm


Mon, 06/19/2017 - 9:11am


Please read my comments to TJH on the last page of this thread, I would like your thoughts/reaction.

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 3:33pm

I've been teaching for 17 years and know I can't leave my district b/c no other school would pay me as much, that's how it works and we know it. What confuses me about the author: does he think teachers would go running to fill Detroit positions if only they were paid their years? I already make more than the highest paid Detroit teacher according to his chart. How many teachers leave Detroit for a better paying position? It's always been understood in the teacher community that good teachers leave schools like Detroit, not vice versa. They need to pay the teachers they have well and look towards retainment. Unfortunately, economically disadvantaged schools are tough to work in. I don't think they could pay enough for many of us. I'd say this article was absurd, but I think it's unworthy of that comment; it's downright silly.

David Zeman
Fri, 06/16/2017 - 10:05am

Actually, DS, our reporting and previous studies show that some teachers are interested in teaching in low-income, struggling communities and school districts like the one in Detroit, and are even willing to take a pay cut in the process because they believe that our most vulnerable children are the ones most in need of high-performing teachers. But even the most altruistic among them would have a difficult time absorbing a $24,000 pay cut. 

David Z
Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:01pm

Wouldn't that be an equal funding issue not a "Dear teacher: We want to hire you. Here’s a huge pay cut. Sincerely, unions" issue?? Again an over simplification of a complex problem that has a root in unequal funding, not unions preventing better pay opportunities. You are not really making an argument for defense of this article very well.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 10:18pm

^^^^^^ The above comment was TO David Z, not by him. Sorry

Sandy Olsen
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 4:48pm

Don't blame the unions for the teacher shortage. All you have to do is watch the Michigan legislature and Senate bills that are presented and passed. An example is their eager zeal to demean public school teachers by gutting the pension system. My reaction when I read the comments from our elected officials is why would anyone want to teach in Michigan. Our state, at one time, was a leader in progressive education. No longer is that true. If I were a new education graduate I would not apply to schools in Michigan until the general atmosphere is more welcoming.

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 5:01pm

What this article fails to mention is, Detroit teachers have been working for only pay cuts, health care increases and step freezes for 8-10 years (as a DPS teacher I find it far to depressing to actually sit here and ponder how long it has specifically been). I have literally watched my weekly pay decrease steadily. That being said, a teacher that has been working in DPS for at least 8 years is still making a base salary and the administration would like to hire another teacher in making more? Of course the union would fight that. Until the district brings its current workforce up to the level they belong all new teachers will have to start at base.
Believe me when I say we would love to have our vacancies filled so that we are not using our preparation periods to cover classes and instead be able to actually go about the business required to prep for our classes such as, grading papers, making copies, IEP meetings, tutoring students, gathering supplies, counseling students, planning field trips, organizing our after school clubs and activities... I could go on for days.
Our union is tasked with protecting the membership it already has. It is not their fault the countless emergency managers (countless is 6-8, a again too depressing to sort out now) saw fit to insure DPS was financially stable with their staff's money. Only to fall to creating a new district without a formal audit of the old district to avoid bankruptcy.
Perhaps Mr. Wilkins on would like to research his example districts or not pick and choose the portions of Ms. Bailey's statements he'd like to quote.

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 5:31pm

The Mackinac Center isn't just a "frequent critic" of teacher's unions, they are a constant and relentless critic of them. Think John Engler's cheerleaders.

Grove Sandrock
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 11:19pm

I agree with this 100%. I am not happy with the relationship in evidence. I will consider this when I next get an appeal for a financial contribution the The Bridge. Forget it!

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 10:30am

Just curious, (and since this article has turned into a boo hoo session for the MEA) , what evidence do you have that any teacher's union has had any measurable positive impact on educational outcomes or has been anything but an impediment to almost any reform ever proposed? Most union metrics and test results are probably inverse. What evidence is there that length of tenure or degree attainment delivers student performance? I'd not be surprised if there's a correlation between higher paid teachers and say, higher ACT test results but don't tell me that other community factors aren't bigger drivers.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:09pm

What evidence do you have that unions don't have a positive impact on education?? Omg what a pathetic salvo. The idea that unions stand in the way of real reform (not test and punish) have been supported by unions and its membership for decades often leading the way in getting them done.

Most Union metrics? Like what?

You finally got it at the end, the wealthier the district's, the better the test results and that is simple to resolve: equal funding then the best paid (best qualified) won't all gravitate to the richest districts. Second, the better funded districts can afford (not only better pay for teachers and therefor draw the more highly qualified) they can provide more supports for their students which poorer (less funded districts) can.

You sound like you've worked either for the Mackinaw Center or Americans for Prosperity for quite some time ;-)

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 11:09pm


"You finally got it at the end, the wealthier the district's, the better the test results ".
It isn't the wealth of the districts, it is the expectations and culture of learning in the district.

Have you even consider why those districts are wealthy, could it be because those who made the district 'wealthy' had academic success and were examples of the value of learning to their children, and that they share with their children the methods of learning, and they helped their students to establish higher learning expectation than even the school/teachers had for them.

We live in a 'wealthy' district and a less than 'wealthy' district while how children were in high school. In one district one daughter had a physics teacher that took his class to Six Flag so they would experience and report on the physics lessons he had been teaching, while in the other district the other daughter had a chemistry teacher that calling her inept would be over rating her knowledge of the subject. Each night I had to sit with my daughter and correct all that she had heard that day and teach her the topic of the day [it took the school 3 years to fire the teacher]. As you can guess the physics teacher was from the less than 'wealthy' district and the chemistry teacher was from the 'wealthy' district.
After each graduated [since both were in high school in both schools] what was the difference in the schools. The answer was articulated best by, "The kids I went to Dow High with are the kids I go to college with." It was the students attitude/culture, their learning expectations, their willingness to sacrifice and study to achieve their expectations. The other high school they went to, the 8th grade graduation was more of a social event and received more importance from the parents than the high school graduation.

It wasn't the 'wealth' of the district, but what that wealth was built on, the learning success of the parents. The teacher pay didn't determine the quality of learning, it was the parents attitude and the student culture that determined the learning success.

It is disappointing that this and other articles focus on the money and the adults spending that money and not on the purpose of our education system, student learning. Maybe if we were less concerned about the unions, and blaming or defending teachers, we might learn how to interest the students in learning and help them develop the skills for learning.

Paul Jordan
Fri, 06/16/2017 - 5:59am

Oh those nasty unions!
The article largely ignores the fact that the amount of money that districts can pay teachers is extremely limited due to the way that public schools are funded in Michigan. Proposal A severely limited the amount that residents can tax themselves to pay for school infrastructure (and tended to lock in funding disparities between districts), while the amount of money available for teacher pay is largely determined by the state. As a result of the Republican legislature's hostility towards teachers and teachers' unions, the amount they have made available for teachers' pay and benefits is far below that in states with more successful K-12 public schools.
It is totally disingenuous to hold unions responsible for unattractively low pay when it is the legislature that holds the purse strings.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:10pm

Darn you for being factual, precise and honest. Thanks, very well put.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 6:56am

Total hatchet piece on unions being the bad actor! Since there are thousands of teachers in districts across the state with pay that has been frozen, who have been frozen at lower levels of pay than those incoming teachers, that's the issue that is addressed. Who created this scenario? The Republicans through budget cuts, drastic cuts and the winners are those districts with top per pupil funding. This revolting piece is a proxy piece for the Mackinaw Center and whoever wrote it should be ashamed to claim to be a journalist.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 8:24am

Has anyone paid attention to the former employer of the author? The Detroit News has never been a supporter of unions. Makes perfect sense to the article.
As for why contracts are written this way. I to have been at the table for 25+ years. The board and administration didn't want to grant much credit to new hires because of cost.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:12pm

Agree. 21 years of negotiations and it has always been the school (thanks to funding cuts) that has brought ways to pay less, give fewer benefits etc...not the union bargaining team.

Rob Pollard
Fri, 06/16/2017 - 10:04am

I give this article some credit, for highlighting an issue I wasn't aware of, but the framing is problematic (to say the least). It makes links & assertions that aren't backed up by evidence. For example, it quotes the Paul Robeson principal from the Chalkbeat article regarding 3 teachers taking different jobs -- however, in that article, it is clear the principal is talking about brand new teachers (as the paragraph right before the quote, in Chalkbeat, discussing the low starting salary for **first-year teachers**); yet here on Bridge, it makes it seem like those 3 teachers had many years experience and went elsewhere b/c they couldn't keep their earned years. That's misleading.

Additionally, school districts like Plymouth-Canton and Livonia are close to Detroit and Dearborn in terms of how restrictive they are. You know how many openings P-C has currently for classroom teachers? Zero. I just checked. Livonia is virtually the same.

This might be an issue worthy of discussion, but the context it is put in here --- that changing it might make some dramatic, or even meaningful impact on teachers shortages, is not remotely shown by evidence presented.

Bill Bresler
Fri, 06/16/2017 - 2:15pm

Tell me why unions would ask for limits on experience credits? Since dues are generally a percentage of earnings, restricting credit for experience would reduce the union coffers. My guess is that school boards are in favor of this because it reduces payroll. It's not an issue when there are plenty of out-of-work teachers who will take what they can get. After demonizing teachers for many years, supply and demand is biting the behinds of school boards.
Mike, you're barking up the wrong tree here.

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:15pm

Bill, point of fact. Union dues are not a percentage (not in any school I know) and even more importantly, no Union negotiating team negotiates to prevent "reduc[tion] in the union coffers". That statement is baseless and sadly ignorant.

Dave G
Fri, 06/16/2017 - 2:21pm

The heart of this contract language is less about "equity" to the tried and true and more about helping the district to be responsible with their money so that they can provide steps and increases for their employees. I don't agree that their should be a devaluation of experience and don't accept the criticism of steps as experience matters. In today's classrooms the evaluation systems make it easy for even inept administrators to let a teacher go so I would weight heavily that each year is growth. The better conversation to have would be why a kid in one district is worth $7200 and another is worth $10500. That would be a great discussion as this would have a larger impact on teacher pay and all of those frozen steps you spoke of earlier

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 7:17pm

Dave, great point and some districts are funded at $12,000/student or more. A very common thread here is the inequity in funding seems to be a better factor to explore and fix rather than Union blaming :-)

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 7:48am

This is anti-union rubbish!! Antone who is intelligent and reads the newspapers knows that the state legislators and the governor determine how and what teachers will be paid and benefits, how many students in class, etc. Just last week, the Republicans slashed teachers pensions!

Craig Oldham
Sat, 06/17/2017 - 9:59am

To say this pay disparity is "union"is a total misdiagnosis. It is legislative totally. This problem belongs to the governor & legislature.

If districts had money to pay educators what they are worth, meaning "step" or "evaluation" raises (whatever criteria you choose to measure quality in your district each year) then there would be NO difficulty with the present staff of a district in offering "new hires" their accumulated time in the profession. This present situation would not be happening. But as long as educators on staff with 8 or 10 years of service get paid as a second year teacher and all of a sudden the "newbie" is on step/level( whatever you wanna call it) eight, 20 or 30 or more present staff, depending on district size, are going to be treated totally and completely unequal. In my humble opinion this problem belongs with the legislature, not the union!

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 9:51pm

VERY well put.

Chuck Jordan
Sat, 06/17/2017 - 11:10am

The article, despite its offensive title, brings up an important issue, alluded to briefly in some of the posts: the differences in funding and pay for teachers in poor, mostly minority and some rural districts. We need more incentives to get the best teachers in these schools and yes pay makes a difference. More than pay though, people need to understand how difficult it is to teach in these places and how criticism of teachers only hurts.

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 9:52pm


Mark W.
Sat, 06/17/2017 - 12:38pm

Face it...people not wanting to work in Detroit is not because of the pay. its because of the criminal nature of the Detroit public Schools and the Detroit City government along with the constant issue of parents who will not make their children's education a priority. Single parent families and a culture that frowns on scholastic achievement is the problem in Detroit. 50 years of blaming somebody else and still it sinks further and further into a hole regardless of the amount of money thrown at the problem.

Paul Jordan
Sun, 06/18/2017 - 1:42am

It is interesting to me that the champions of the free market, such as the Mackinaw Center, believe that scarcity of a valued commodity should cause its price to rise. This is obviously not how it works with teachers. With fewer teachers entering the profession, the salaries and benefits should rise to attract them.
This is not happening--not because what teachers do isn't valuable--but because the legislature is starving schools of funding while Proposal A has ensured that people cannot tax themselves enough to pay for an adequate education for their children.
The Republicans in the legislature are not really governmental minimalists. They depend upon ignorance for their support, and so are enemies of education.

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 8:30am

To be real as a teacher with 20 plus years in have never been offered any position that has reciprocity in pay. 99% of all districts want to higher inexperienced teachers at the lowest wages. To blame unions is endogenous. Detroit does not even call me though atvonenpoint I submitted my resume almost every 4 months.
The problem is the budget cuts in Lansing, preventing retired teachers from working as substitutes and stealing their retirement fund---this is whybtherebis a NATIONAL teacher shortage not because you want to target unions as restricting wages-- tell Lansing to restore funding and RESPECT to the profession and teachers will come.

Joel A. Levitt
Sun, 06/18/2017 - 8:56am

Michigan parents and other residents are the root cause of this tragic problem, which is destroying our children’s future.

State government doesn’t have enough money, because a provision in our state constitution prohibits the imposition of graduated taxes and because Governor Snyder and Republican legislators still believe that low taxes for the wealthy are key to attracting new industry and, thus, to new jobs and to more voter support at the polls.

Ann Arbor’s experience belies the latter assumption. In Ann Arbor, the cost of homes and of land is skyrocketing and real estate and education taxes are among the highest in our state. Yet, new businesses are flooding in, because it is in Ann Arbor that firms can find the well-educated labor force essential to their success.

The state can raise more money by increasing the sales tax and our flat income tax. But, this would fall most heavily on our poor, who can least afford to pay them, endangering public health and leading to increased crime.

The solution is to amend our state constitution, to permit the imposition of a graduated income tax. However, most Michigan parents and other residents resist this, because we care more about maintaining our current life style, than we care about the future of our children.

Pauline L. Walk...
Sun, 06/18/2017 - 10:25am

This story lacks an understanding of the legal restrictions placed on unions. First, unions have a legal duty to bargain the best wages and working conditions for ALL of their members. Unions are often faced with administration's "bottom line," stating that "If this group of teachers gets a raise, this other group will get no raise at all." If administration is serious about attracting new teachers, they should propose a pay schedule and working conditions attractive to ALL teachers. No union would oppose such a proposal. Second, the state legislature has attempted to weaken the bargaining power of unions by passing laws prohibiting unions from even talking about certain topics at the bargaining table. This has weakened the union's ability to advocate for the teachers they represent. If Michigan is truly interested in quality teachers, they should empower the teachers unions so that they can effectively bargain for the types of wages and working conditions that will not only attract good teachers but will also retain these teachers for many years. (Note: Teacher retention and substitute teacher pay are also issues that need to be addressed in this state!)

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 11:55pm

Some teachers are overpaid and some are underpaid. The median HOUSEHOLD income of US taxpayers is $50,000.

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 12:37am

I spent 15 years in the classroom, one of them as a local union president, and 25 years in administration. The last seven years I was a superintendent. This is much more complicated than simply a desire by unions to limit the experience steps and pay granted to new hires. Administration for the past 15-20 years has also tried to hold down costs. We all know that in MI ed spending has not kept pace with h the cost of living or with many other states. Cuts to staff and programs have become an annual affair for many districts. During my last several years I had to insist that my principals hired the best candidates without experience unless there was some extenuating circumstance. We simply couldn't afford to pay new teachers with experience. Sadly, it is getting tough to find new teachers, and with the pension system legislation passed this week it will get even worse. We have forgotten why a public education for all is an important component to our democracy. We are paying a price for this that will only become steeper in the coming years.

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 9:09am


In the conversation about student learning, the classroom practices, were there ever any talks about changing the roles and responsibilities, the means and methods, was there any consider ration of throwing away the 'box' built around the classroom thinking and rebuild how information was presented, explained, practiced?

I know it is an abhorrent consideration to consider by private [businesses] organizations and the people that make the work change how they work, how they think about issues and opportunities, how the organizations have to be dynamic to survive and be sustainable in an ever changing world.

The classroom and current school structure seems to be designed around the idea of being the most efficient means to present information to the most people. With a foundation of that system being pay structure simple to manage.

Have you ever been part of a group that consider the purpose to be most effective learning by the students and build a system for that. Has there been any consideration to the possibility that the student perspective is different that of the adults designing, delivering, administering, and supporting the current structure.

I have seen how the cliche of 'thinking ourside the box' is can only be an incremental approach because people are tied to the 'box' thinking or accept concepts. I have seen significant success when the 'box' was thrown away and the purpose was changed.

In all these articles and comments people seem tied to the organizational structure so tightly that they don't even talk about the reason that structure is maintained and how it may be a barrier to what, at least my wife and I have believe was paramount, the learning of the students.

Have you in any of your roles been part of a group the started with a blank page and the purpose of learning rethought the classroom for student learning?

Ida Byrd-Hill
Mon, 06/19/2017 - 2:45am

Society has always recognized teaching as a noble profession. The problem is that Michigan students are not graduating where they can compete against foreign counterparts on standardized exams like PISA.
In math only 30% of 11th graders are proficient in Math. In Detroit only 10% is proficient. Society is flabbergasted by these Statistics.

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 11:16pm

Wow - sensitive complex issue with too much emotion on each side.
Which reminds me there should not be any side where our children and grandchildren and their future is involved.
Emotional fighting and name calling never really solves much but a non-emotional non-biased analysis to determine - to quantify what the real issues/problems are could help the taxpayers understand what needs to be done and how to do it. Without their understanding and pressure Lansing will never get it right.
So somebody help us tax payers understand the real problems and methods to walk towards the reasonable long term options available.

Then if the bargaining attitude going in is a non-flexible one - no give and take and no long term progress intended towards the long term solution{s} taxpayers will ignore your issues and nothing will be solved.

So my suggestion is each party should take the time to explain on paper what they see are the real truthful issues and their solutions. As I see it those parties are state representative teachers, unions, school administrators, taxpayers and politicians. Then kiddingly or not I suggest we throw them all into a large prison cage and let them out only when they agree on what they say is a reasonable long term solution.
No one should win this process except our children and grandchildren - as they are this states and nations future.

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 7:43pm


There is nothing in it for them to do what you ask, explain it on paper. They understand and know how to work the system that is in place.
You are interested in the kids learning that is not what are system had evolved to. What we need is a description of how a child/person learns, what are the things that can encourage that learning and have the parents, families, and community focus on those things and leave the schools [Dept of Education, the districts and their staff, the unions, and the teachers] to do what they are doing. For as long as we try to change the schools we will be distracted from what we can do with the kids to help them learn, and it we are distract from those efforts we risk losing more kids from learning.

Pauline L. Walker
Wed, 06/21/2017 - 8:18pm

The bottom line to all of this is simple economics. We pay a higher price for what we value. If we do not value the quality of education for our children and grandchildren, we will pay their teachers a wage that reflects our value of their work -- next to nothing. Then we will despair over the fact that we can no longer fill our schools with quality teachers and that our children and grandchildren are not getting the education they deserve. If that's what the citizens of Michigan want, that is what they will get -- what they give their teachers -- next to nothing.

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 10:59pm


You are correct. The issue is do we continue to focus on the pay or do we shift the focus to the value and how we increase that value.

I have yet to hear anyone writing the articles or those commenting try to change the focus. Why do you think in the same classroom some succeed, some fail, and the rest are in between? I think it is the students and their individual interest in learning. If that is the case then we should be talking about interesting the students and ignore the money until we figure out what it takes to grab that interest and exploit it into student learning.

What do think is need to get more students learning?

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 10:35am

One glaring error that stuck out is the citing of salary related to years of service without consideration of years if pay freeze. "Say you’re a teacher with 10 years’ experience at Utica schools, which had layoffs last year. To work in Detroit, you’d have to accept nearly $36,000 less, going from more than $78,500 to just under $43,000 because eight years’ of experience wouldn’t count." Here, it is ignored that Utica had 3 years of frozen pay within that 10 year window. So that quoted salary is around $10k-$15k higher than reality. That's a simple nuance that should be known if you're going to report on teacher salary.

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 7:23am

This is nonsense. Virtually every collective bargaining agreement allows new hires to be placed at whatever pay step is commensurate to one's experience. It is up to the administration to grant those steps. We have had people in our unit with zero years seniority in our district but start at a higher pay step because of his/her experience. This is jusy nonsense to build sentiment to strip collective baragaining rights for pay.

Mary Taylor
Sat, 07/01/2017 - 8:37pm

No it's not thank you unions - it's thank you administration and government!!!

Charles Duerr
Fri, 07/21/2017 - 2:52pm

Why attribute the experience credit restrictions entirely to the unions as the headline here does? The collective bargaining agreement is just that. An agreement. The school districts that gave up their freedom to give experience credit have merely indicted themselves.

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 6:46am

Contracts are bargained WITH the district. It is not a one sided process. Working conditions, benefits, and salary are negotiated with the the district within the constraints of the district’s budget. Of course, we want staff to receive appropriate salaries and raises every year...we have gone many years without raises but it is not a simple process. The state has continued to underfund education. There are many factors at play here and unuion contracts should not be blamed.

Sun, 09/16/2018 - 2:19pm

Unions aren’t negotiating for this, districts are demanding it. Michigan has passed so many union busting laws in the past eight years, that they have little to bargain with. Quit blaming teachers and their unions for the current shortage. This state, and often your magazine, has demonized the profession, and worked hard to pass legislature that makes teaching very unattractive. Maybe you could offer bigger raises, a pension, or more attractive healthcare, but no that’s all been taken away, not by unions, not even by local districts. This all came from Lansing. The shortages you speak of fall on the state and publications like your’s that have made us the “whipping boy” for everything wrong in society. Shame on you.

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 1:39am

You must be kidding... teacher's would love to have the ability to move districts within Michigan without taking a huge reduction in pay. This "teacher's" contract as you call it favors the pocketbook of the district, not the teacher. Districts don't want to pay full price if they don't have to do so. In addition, a district can use this as leverage to have teacher's take on additional tasks and work overtime for free- because teacher's know they can't leave the district and afford the pay cut.

Catherine Sherwood
Fri, 01/31/2020 - 8:12pm

Not sure I see the logic of teachers limiting new teachers salary, other than envy. Teachers transferring in to new districts most likely have had to endure pay cuts, freezes, large classes and layoffs in their career also.