Detroit charter school to offer $100,000 teacher salaries

A school leader stands behind a podium, surrounded by students and staff.
Maurice Morton, the chief executive officer for the Detroit Academy of Arts & Sciences, announced during a press conference Thursday a plan to pay $100,000 annually to teachers who qualify. (Courtesy of Detroit Academy of Arts & Sciences)

A Detroit charter school is offering $100,000 annual salaries to certain teachers with five or more years of experience, in a bold bid to increase the number of certified teachers at the school.

The Detroit Academy of Arts & Sciences, which serves a little over 1,000 K-8 students, made the announcement Thursday morning. The school said the six-figure salary offer is part of an effort to improve student outcomes and to attract what it calls “best in class” teachers.

Teachers must meet a set of criteria in order to be eligible for the $100,000 pay. 

  • They must have at least five or more years of experience as a classroom teacher or a lead teacher.
  • They must be rated highly effective in two of the last three years.
  • They must be fully certified.
  • They must demonstrate an impact on student outcomes, professionalism, commitment to equity, and family and community engagement.

“Revolutionary” is how Krystal Thomas, a 7th grade science teacher at DAAS, described the salary offer, according to the release.

“When you give teachers a livable wage, it makes the profession important,” said Thomas, who plans to pursue becoming a model teacher. “I’m really excited about this opportunity.”

Said Ja’Myrea Jones, an eighth-grader and the school’s valedictorian: “I think it is great that DAAS is committed to ensuring that our students have the best teachers in the classroom. Having highly effective teachers will help us become stronger scholars and future leaders.”

The district expects to hire 18 teachers with the $100,000 salary in time for the start of the 2023-24 school year. The new hires would receive a three-year contract, and would be required to maintain their ratings during that time.

Current staff are also eligible, though they would have to apply, and it’s unclear how many would qualify, a spokesperson for the school said Thursday.

At DAAS, 35% of the teachers aren’t fully certified, though many are going through the steps to earn certification. Seven years ago, 95% of the teachers were certified.

“Every child deserves to be taught by a best-in-class teacher,” Maurice Morton, CEO of the district, said during a news conference held at the school Thursday, according to a press release.

“By creating strong criteria to measure excellence for teachers and investing in their growth with a best-in-class compensation plan, we believe that we will have a profound impact on the educational outcomes for the children we serve.”

It’s not unheard of for teachers to make $100,000, but generally teachers earning at that level have many years of experience and/or are often receiving additional compensation for coaching or leading other extracurricular activities. Michigan ranks 16th in the nation for teacher pay, with an average of $64,884, according to the 2023 review of salaries by the National Education Association

At DAAS, current teachers make salaries of between $49,000 to $72,000. The school will cover the higher salaries by reallocating portions of its budget.

The DAAS offer is one of many initiatives Michigan schools are using to address teaching shortages that are affecting districts across the state. A new program to recruit, retain, and develop teachers in five Michigan districts was announced Thursday by Teach for America Detroit. 

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, has made increasing staff salaries a critical budget initiative for the next school year, even as the district seeks to make budget cuts to account for the loss of federal COVID relief funding. 

Battle Creek Public Schools on Wednesday announced an agreement with its union to provide a $10,000 increase to base pay, on average. District officials say the pay increase will make it one of the highest paying districts for new teachers in southwest Michigan.

“Everything that we do for our students begins with teachers, and we will continue to invest in them to ensure that together we are creating the conditions for success that our students need and deserve,” Battle Creek Superintendent Kimberly Carter said in a news release from the district.

Lori Higgins is the bureau chief of Chalkbeat Detroit. You can reach her at lhiggins@chalkbeat.org.

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