NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 9, 2010

The president of the Michigan Education Association stated on the radio recently that school employees have "given and given and given and given."  Comparing teacher salaries to personal income demonstrates that the taxpayers who pay for teacher salaries have "given" a lot more, says Michael Van Beek, education director of the Mackinac Center. 

The National Education Association just released its annual report that compares average teacher salaries throughout the country.  For 2009-2010, Michigan ranks 8th.  Here's the list: 

New York ($71,470); California ($70,458); Alaska ($69,864); New Jersey ($68,703); Connecticut ($68,412); Massachusetts ($68,000); Maryland ($65,902); and Michigan ($65,285). 

There's nothing necessarily wrong with Michigan teachers earning high salaries, says Van Beek.  In fact, even if they took home less pay, benefit packages for public employees are still on average much more generous than those in the private sector.  Public school teachers are government employees and are paid with tax dollars, and therefore their wages are inextricably linked to the economic well-being of the state and the wealth of its citizens. 

A standard measure of state wealth is per capita personal income, says Van Beek.  Here's a list from the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the same states above and their per capita personal income rank for 2008: 

New York (4); California (9); Alaska (8); New Jersey (2); Connecticut (1); Massachusetts (3); Maryland (6); and Michigan (37). 

Michigan has many difficult decisions ahead, especially if Lansing continues its failed economic policies.  Based on the numbers above, one issue that must be addressed is whether Michigan can continue to pay teachers "rich state" wages while the taxpayers footing the bill have "poor state" incomes, says Van Beek. 

Source: Michael Van Beek, "Teachers and Taxpayers," Mackinac Center, February 8, 2010. 

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