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Detroit teachers to get highest starting salary in Michigan

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit public schools and its teachers' union reached an agreement on a one-year contract this week that gives the district the highest starting teacher salary in Michigan at $51,019.

Under the agreement, the district’s new average teaching salary of $70,380 moves its rank from the 287th highest average teacher salary in the state to 35th, based on 2018-19 data from the Michigan Department of Education.

Officials with Detroit Public Schools Community District announced the details on Wednesday. Members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers ratified the agreement on Tuesday, district officials said.

Both sides began bargaining in February prior to the COVID-19 mandatory school closure and agreed to a one-year term due to the uncertainty of school funding in future years, district officials said. 

The contract expires June 30.

DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said many school districts talk about being “teacher-first” or “teacher-centric,” but they lack the track record, experience, commitment and ability to problem-solve through complicated budgets and competing interests.

"This administrative team and school board has delivered on its promise to improve salaries, benefits and working conditions to retain and recruit teachers, even amid a pandemic,” Vitti said.

DPSCD officials said since 2017, starting teacher salaries have increased by more than $15,000 in the district and average teacher salaries have increased by more than $13,000.

At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, the district had 275 teacher vacancies but started this year with fewer than 50, concentrated mainly in special education, school officials said.

DFT president Terrence Martin said on Wednesday his members approved the contract by 76%.

"We were able to increase salaries across the board and get some protections we didn’t have before in the areas of harassment, intimidation and discrimination, which we didn’t have before. That really helps our teachers," Martin said.

DFT members include 4,353-unit members who serve students as teachers, master teachers, training and support coordinators, and auxiliary staff members such as academic interventionists, attendance agents, counselors, psychologists and social workers.