Karen Lewis

Reason #1 on Why CPS Teachers Shouldn’t Go on Strike (5-part series)

The central question in this whole “teacher strike” fight is this: Do teachers in Chicago make enough money?

In a word…yes.

When it get’s down to it, teachers (especially teachers in Chicago Public Schools) are heroes.  At some level, there is no amount of money that we could EVER pay them that would be “enough” for the service that they provide to our children.  If the Chicago Public Schools had an unlimited supply of money, I’m sure that most people would agree that we should pay our teachers more (we sure would).

But, we don’t live in that fantasy world.  So here’s a slightly better question for us to consider: Do teachers in Chicago make enough money given the circumstances?

Let’s look at the facts:

  • CPS teachers make an average of $78,000 per year (the starting salary is over $50,000) and they have the highest lifetime earnings of any of the 10 largest cities in America.
  • A 2014 study shows that the lifetime earnings for a 30-year Chicago public school teacher is $2.15 million dollars, not including pensions.
  • Chicago teachers also earn well above the regional average salaries at every level of the pay scale so they are more than “competitive” with surrounding communities.
  • The City of Chicago has raised local taxes more than $1.1 billion dollars in the last year to pay for, among other things, pensions for teachers, police and firefighters.
  • Retired Chicago teachers get a 3% increase in their pensions every single year.
  • The average teacher salary in America is between $43K and $48K
  • The average income in Chicago is $69,000.
  • The average household income in predominantly Black neighborhoods across the west and south sides of Chicago range from between $10K per year and $20K per year.

So, CPS teachers make more than other teachers around the country, more than other people in the city and A LOT more than most of the families they serve.

Do they make more than you?

The latest offer on the table from CPS gives all but the most senior teachers a net salary increase (even after teachers pick up more cost for pensions and health care), but they don’t think it is enough of a raise.  

Teachers are invaluable treasures that can never be paid “enough”.  But, in reality Chicago has some of the BEST PAID TEACHERS IN AMERICA.

Stay tuned for part 2 on Why CPS Teachers Shouldn’t Go on Strike tomorrow.

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Chris Butler is first a husband and a dad. He has been involved across the spectrum of public engagement activities and has worked with a number of diverse constituencies in urban and suburban communities. He has also been involved in several political campaigns including his service as a youth and young adult coordinator for Barack Obama’s primary bid for U.S. Senate. Chris worked as deputy campaign manager and field director for A+ Illinois where he developed a strong, statewide field operation including over 500 organizations and 50,000 individuals around the state working to bring adequacy and equity to Illinois’ school funding system and as the director of advocacy and outreach at New Schools for Chicago, a leader in school reform in Chicago. Chris is a 2006 graduate of the Ministry Training Institute and holds a degree in civic and political engagement from Northeastern Illinois University.