Step curves for Ann Arbor and Plymouth-Canton public schools

It has become common to compare Ann Arbor Public Schools to nearby school districts on a number of different metrics. One is average teacher pay. In an effort to illuminate this issue, we would like to present some comparative data for AAPS and a frequently-cited benchmark district, Plymouth-Canton Community schools.

This chart represents the step salary levels for teachers in AAPS and PCCS, based on contract data for the 2008-09 fiscal year. While each step table has a number of different categories based on educational attainment, I’ve picked the three most common: teachers with a BA, teachers with an MA, and teachers with an MA plus 30 further hours of graduate credit.

What is noticeable is that the curves are remarkably similar, despite the fact that the average salaries reported by each district to the state are quite different. Teachers with a BA are paid more in Plymouth-Canton than in Ann Arbor at every level of service. The reverse is generally true for teachers with graduate degrees. However, teachers with graduate degrees end up at virtually identical pay levels by 12 years of service; the difference is the substantial jump in pay at the 10-year mark for Plymouth-Canton teachers, which is not mirrored on the AAPS scale.

In the final analysis, the substantial differences between the reported average pay in the two districts cannot be explained primarily by differences in pay scales. Rather, a more likely explanation is a difference of where teachers are distributed across those steps. AAPS kept about even in student population over the eight or so years ending in 2008. In contrast, Plymouth-Canton started that period even with AAPS but remained on a growth trajectory, adding about 2500 students from 2000-2008 (about 15% growth). Aside from the fiscal bonus growing districts receive, this kind of growth means an expansion of the teaching staff. New teachers will start at or near the bottom of the step table, lowering average salary figures.

Contract data for AAPS and PCCS come from published contracts, with the 2009 fiscal year being the latest available for PCCS at the time of data collection. AAPS data are drawn from the same year; but the step table for 2009-10 remained unchanged for AAPS. Student count data are taken from Michigan Dept of Education Bulletin 1014, with 2007-08 being the most recent available at the time of data collection.