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Why Should We Pay Teachers More?


When I graduated from college, I had a degree in English and African Studies. Honestly, I had no real, practical training. Except, I knew how to write well, think empathetically, and communicate clearly. Were these skills that I implicitly learned through my degree? I don’t know. I would like to think that I didn’t waste my $30,000/yr tuition. All I know, is that I did not know what I wanted to do or who I wanted to become at that point in time.

I ended up following my husband and landed a job as a marketing assistant at a large retirement community. I did not make a huge amount of money answering phones, scheduling appointments, and sending out flyers. However, within my three years of working there, I climbed the ranks to become the lead sales associate. Working in this position, my pay was only handicapped by my own ability to sell apartments. In my first six months, I sold over a $1,000,000 worth of apartments. I was doing pretty well.

And then I left.

I recognized that my passion was not in selling apartments for the rest of my life. I wanted to do something that filled that innermost sense of calling.

Fast forward two years, two jobs, and a masters degree, and I was a secondary teacher. I was in my sweet spot–my calling.

I did not go into teaching for the money–truth be told. However, as far as pay scales go, when I took my first teaching job, I also took almost a 50% pay cut. How is this possible? I was more educated, more experienced, and doing a job that I could argue is more essential to the proliferation of our country, and yet I was making way less money. Crazy, huh?

What most Americans might not understand is that this is the reality in education.

The average teacher salary in the state of Michigan, according to, is $61,590. The average starting teacher salary in the state of Michigan is $35,901. If we compare this data with pay's breakdown of the state of Michigan by the median salary by years of experience, we see that the median income in the state of those with less than 1 year of experience in any profession is $50,398. For those with 5-9 years of experience, that number rises to $60,569.

Now, knowing that many teachers in the state have an M.Ed because of licensure requirements, we could compare the salaries to a similar degree like an MBA. The median income in the state of Michigan for those with an MBA, again according to, is $94,423. A whopping, 35% more than the average for an educator.

The argument might be, “Well, isn’t an MBA more comparable to a Principal or Assistant Principal?” Those average salaries are similar to that of an MBA. However, those with an MBA are not necessarily in positions of leadership, and certainly they are not necessarily in the top positions of leadership within their companies. For example, if we looked at the median income of a VP of Operations in Detroit, it is $143,346. If you know anything about a principal’s job, you will know that VP of Operations is much closer to their job descriptions.

What’s my point? Is it simply that educators are paid too little? That over simplifies this complex conversation.

Today, in Tampa, Florida, there are school children who walked out of their classrooms to protest the fact that their teachers are not getting the $4,000 raise that was promised to them. The school district’s response is simply, “The money is not there.”

Jack Lessenberry, the acclaimed Michigan Radio commentator, wrote this in a recent scolding of State Sen. Knollenberg from Troy, "You have spent the last seven years attacking teachers and cutting their salaries and benefits and pensions. The Michigan Department of Education reported last year that the average teacher salary in our state declined for the fifth straight year."

These students should not be protesting in front of their schools but their homes.

Until the average citizen understands the value of an educator and promises to pay taxes that will pay educators a fair salary and pledges to hold their state representatives responsible for using their tax dollars in a way that sufficiently supports education, we protest in vain.

These students are right, though. #myteachermyfuture is not only a catchy tagline. It’s a researched, evidence-based truth. The value we place on our teachers = the value we place on our future.

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