A pay hike in Detroit schools will fill teacher vacancies, but does it consider the district’s longtime educators?
DETROIT, MI — Detroit’s school district has an urgent need to bring in new teachers, and they’re solving it by offering Metro Detroit’s highest starting salary for educators.
Detroit Public Schools Community District officials announced an unprecedented pay hike for teachers on Thursday. New teachers will earn up to $51,071, beginning with the 2020-21 academic year.
This marks the first time that new DPSCD teachers will be the highest paid in Metro Detroit. The district says it hopes the move will help fill a number of teacher vacancies and retain instructors.
“This investment will prevent a greater teacher recruitment crisis for our students when you consider the national and regional shortage of undergraduate students choosing to be a teacher and the fact that nearly a third of our teachers could retire at any moment and another third of teachers could be in a position to retire in one to four years,” said DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.
Considering Detroit’s Veteran Educators
For some veteran teachers, who chose to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution, the pay increase ignores the hard work and dedication of teachers who served Detroit’s children when it wasn’t glamorous or newsworthy.
“It’s not fair,” a veteran and Master Teacher who is certified to coach other district teachers told The ‘Gander. “What about the people with a master’s and 10 years [of service] making 56K? And the veteran teachers or teachers at the top, where is our real raise?”
The Detroit Federation of Teachers says it will work with DPSCD to get pay increases for all teachers.
Currently, first year teachers in the district earn approximately $38,000 annually with a $1,000 pay increase for each of the following years, maxing out at 15 years – or approximately $53,000 annually. There is no word about how this pay increase may affect veteran teachers’ salaries, as they will now earn near the same amount as new hires.
“Over the past three years our greatest investments have been in teacher compensation because we know that is where the greatest return on investment is generated,” said Iris Taylor, president for the district’s board of education.
DPSCD said it has raised all teacher salaries for the last three years with the average increase being nearly $10,000 total since the 2016-17 academic year.
Detroit’s current teachers say it’s not enough.
“I think new teachers deserve a salary commensurate with professionals in business and the skilled trade industries,” a 5th grade English and social studies teacher told The ‘Gander. “Most teachers put in over eight hour days and spend out-of-pocket for their students. While this is certainly a positive recognition of the value of teaching, I hope long-time DPSCD teachers can also be compensated based on COLA, as we are still making less than we were 10 years ago. But overall, it’s about time teachers are valued.”
The Master Teacher says she is in agreement with pay increases across the board.
“If the new starting pay has been raised, then all should be raised,” said the Master Teacher. “Everyone should see a real raise in their checks this fall. Period.”
The Pressing Issue of Vacancies
DPSCD says vacancies have fallen to about 70, down from over 200 in 2017. A statement released says the district must take action now to recruit new teachers.
“If we do not act with a sense of urgency regarding the recruitment of teachers to DPSCD, then we slow the progress our children are making and own the failure to develop a long-term strategy to prevent the vacuum that a mass retirement could create over the next five years.”
District Superintendent Vitti told The Detroit News that teachers who currently earn less than $51,000 will have their salaries increased to that mark.
“Not only do teacher vacancies negatively impact student achievement, but it adds to the stress and burden felt by our teachers who need to cover classrooms, manage larger class sizes or redirect students who do not have a consistent learning process throughout the school day in classes with substitutes,” Vitti said. “Smaller class sizes are also imperative as students and teachers return to schools as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In May 2018, the superintendent changed the district’s policy of only crediting teachers for two years of service outside of DPSCD. Vitti’s new policy pays teachers for their full years of experience outside the district. the state’s largest.
The average starting teacher salary in the state was $36,309, according to a report released by the Michigan Education Association last year. Approximately 12% of Michigan school districts had a starting salary of at least $40,000, they found.
The Detroit Public Schools Community District is the largest public school district in Michigan. It serves approximately 51,000 students and says it plans to reduce class sizes beginning in the fall.