A new study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows Michigan’s teachers are just below the national average in terms of their weekly “wage penalty,” or the amount by which their salary lags other college-educated workers.
The EPI, a liberal Washington, D.C.-based think tank, found in its report that the penalty in question has risen steadily since the mid-1990s for both men and women in the teaching workforce. Michigan’s teachers make 19.5 percent less than their college-educated peers, while the national average is 19.8 percent.
The nation’s highest penalty is in Arizona, where schoolteachers make a full 32.6 percent less than the average college-educated worker. Wyoming comes closest to achieving parity, with its teachers making just one-fifth of one percent less than their counterparts.
Arizona saw a major teachers’ strike in 2018, along with several other states, reflecting a growing sense of unrest over the wage gap that the EPI researchers noted in their report.
“It’s no surprise that the states that have seen teachers strike and walk out over the past year are the states that have some of the highest teacher wage penalties,” said EPI’s Lawrence Mishel.
Colorado, North Carolina, and Oklahoma appear in EPI’s top ten along with Arizona, and all of them have seen similar recent protests.
Wayne State University professor Mike Addonizio, a former assistant state superintendent for research and policy for the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), wrote in an April column for the Advance: “In 39 states, the average teacher salary declined between 2010 and 2016 when you take inflation into account,” emphasizing that the pay gap can lead to underqualified teachers in classrooms and an attendant decline in student performance.
According to the MDE, the most recently reported average teacher salary in Michigan was $61,908 annually for the 2017-18 school year.