The average teacher salary in Forest Hills Public Schools was $64,460 in 2009, and teachers contributed nothing towards the cost of their health insurance (the state average is about 20 percent). The district also pays $41 per month to teachers who do not enroll in the school health insurance plan. These are among the highlights in the current collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the district and the local arm of the Michigan Education Association union.

About 69 percent of the Forest Hills Public Schools $103 million operating budget goes towards paying employees covered by this contract, which covers teachers and a few other employee groups. Forest Hills enrolls about 10,100 students and employs approximately 690 teachers. The district spent $10,136 per pupil in 2009, an increase of about 1.5 percent from the previous school year.

The base salary for most teachers is between $53,262 and $77,019. Teachers are paid much like assembly line workers: how much an individual gets is determined by a single salary schedule that grants automatic pay raises based only on years on the job plus additional pedagogical credentials. Forest Hills teachers receive "step" increases between 4 and 5 percent as they progress through the salary schedule.

All teachers receive a 2 percent annual pay increase as the entire salary schedule grows by that amount, regardless of their position on the step schedule. After 15, 19, 24 and 27 years of employment, teachers get an additional 2 to 4 percent raise as well.  Teachers are granted "tenure" after 4 years on the job, and once tenured are evaluated once every three years, but neither these evaluations nor the performance of their students affect how much they are paid.

The district paid between $13,506 and $14,748 per teacher for family health insurance plans in 2009. Teachers contributed nothing to this cost unless they chose to "buy up" to the higher priced plan. The statewide average cost in the private sector for an employer-provided family plan is $13,160. Employees who choose not to enroll in the district's plan get $41 per month, and all employees get life, long-term disability, vision and dental insurance at no cost to them. The district also reimburses teachers for any prescription drug costs that exceed $400 annually.

School employees receive a lifetime pension when they retire, and also expect to get lifetime post-retirement health benefits. Based on the state-run retirement system's formula, the starting pension for a Forest Hills teacher with 30 years experience and an average base salary of $77,019 (the final "step" on the salary schedule) would be $34,659. For most retirees, this amount increases by 3 percent every year. An employee may begin collecting a pension upon reaching age of 55, or younger if he or she has 30 years of employment in public schools. The district also puts $600 per year into a tax-sheltered annuity for teachers.

All teachers are allotted 10 sick days, four bereavement and three personal leave days each year. There is no limit to the number of sick days that can be accumulated, and teachers may "cash in" unused sick days upon retiring for $45, $65, or $75 per day, depending on how many they have. Teachers may take unpaid leaves for one year for holding public office, child care, or other "special" or "honorary" reasons as deemed appropriate by the school board.

The union contract also covers working hours and conditions. For example, the work year is limited to 186 days, and secondary teachers may not instruct for more than 5 class periods per day without an "overload" payment of $7,664. Parent-teacher conferences are limited to 3 per year, with evening conferences being good for one-half day of compensatory time.

The union contract includes bonus pay for additional duties and certifications. Elementary teachers are paid $500 per semester per child over the contractual class size limit. Teachers serving as "auditorium supervisors" get $3,448 per year tacked on to their salaries, and "diversity coordinators" make another $1,915 annually. Teaching summer school nets $30 per hour, and working as a driving instructor, substitute teacher, or curriculum developer pays between $19 and $21 an hour. The district pays $1,915 per year to each teacher that must travel between buildings, and reimburses employees for college tuition fees up to $4,000 per year.

Finally, teachers can earn extra cash by coaching or participating in other extracurricular activities, such as band, drama, yearbook, intramurals, student clubs and many others. Aside from participating in athletics (which pays between $300 and $6,897 annually), there are nearly 50 different extracurricular positions available to teachers that pay between $191 and $6,131 each year.

A fully detailed analysis can be found here.

Northern Michigan University economist Hugo Eyzaguirre discusses how raising the minimum wage will hurt emerging local economies. See more at "Raising the Minimum Wage, Lowering Opportunity."


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