If you read a front-page Detroit News story this morning headlined “High Teacher Salaries Under Scrutiny” you might have been shocked to learn that some teachers make $100,000 and that some “could” make near that if they had a master’s degree.

The News’ spin on the story was that teachers were getting rich while the state is going broke and we need to cut, cut, cut teachers’ salaries. “Way over the top” was one critic’s quote and, of course, Senator Majority Leader Mike Bishop (he of lifetime free health care benefits, a $105,000 salary, expense perks and years of obstructing legislative progress) piled on.

The right-wing advocacy group, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, noted that Michigan is a “poor state”, suggesting, perhaps, that educators need to swirl down the descending spiral to make sure schools don’t miss the chance to enjoy the decline.

But you had to go all the way down to the ninth paragraph–where fewer readers venture to go–to discover that the average teacher’s salary in Michigan is just over $56,000 a year.  Not a bad pay day by any means, but “high” as we were told by the headline?

So in a state with about 100,000 school teachers the News decides to focus not on what most teachers actually earn, bu

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t what they “could” be paid, in theory, at the top end of the scale with years of service and advanced degrees. Why not focus on the far lower than average entry level salary for teachers?  Perhaps because that doesn’t advance a political agenda.  

We shouldn’t feel sorry for teachers.  Many now earn decent pay and still get summers off but in many, many cash-strapped school districts they are also forced to spring for “extras” like pencils and chaulk and are asked to fill in for busy or absent parents.  

Wasn’t it just a few years ago that there was a big push on to raise notoriously low teacher salaries in order to attract and keep good teachers? 

That resulted in Michigan now being ranked 11th in the country for teacher pay.  But instead of acknowledging that we have a decent foundation for attracting quality teachers while we pursue other school reforms, conservatives are intent on taking us back to the days when teachers’ pay reflected fast-food values–cheap and unhealthy.

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