WARREN, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s declining teacher salaries are leaving many educators feeling undervalued and pushing some to leave the field.
The average salary for Michigan teachers continued to decrease last year, contributing to a 12% decline over the last decade, according to new data from the National Education Association, a labor union.
The Michigan Department of Education found that teachers’ average salary has stagnated since its peak in 2009, at $63,024, MLive.com reported .
Greg Queen, who has been teaching in Michigan for nearly 30 years, said he was unable to provide for his family after facing a decade of sluggish pay increases and rising contributions for health care and retirement benefits.
He is among many who have seen take-home pay reduced because of state mandated increases in benefits contributions, as well as forced furlough days.
Queen, who teaches at Fitzgerald Public Schools District in Macomb County, said his wife had to come out of retirement to make up for the lost income.
He said every teacher in Michigan has a similar story.
Cindy Rossi, a special education teacher with Fitzgerald Public Schools, said the declining salaries coupled with the high costs of college are becoming a deterrent for young people considering the field.
“It’s a hopeless situation,” she said. “Anyone that could get out would get out.”
Rossi said she’s ready to retire after 24 years of teaching.
“I loved my job,” Rossi said. “I loved it until probably five years ago when I saw that it was never going to get back to what it was. (Teaching) just isn’t valued.”
Queen said educators should take the lead from the wave of teacher walkouts that began in West Virginia last year.
“We need to let the public know that we’re not happy anymore,” he said.
The American Federation of Teachers Michigan and the Michigan Education Association plan to protest at the state Capitol in Lansing later this month.
A Michigan Department of Education spokesman did not respond to an email sent Friday by an Associated Press reporter seeking comment.