September 17th, 2012
12:37 PM ET

Q&A: What's behind the Chicago teachers' strike?

by Ed Payne, CNN

(CNN) - The Chicago teachers strike drags into a second week, after a representative group of the Chicago Teachers Union decided over the weekend not to end the walkout even though union leaders and school officials had reached a tentative contract deal.

The strike in the third-largest school system in the country is affecting more than 350,000 children.

A quick primer:

Q. What's the sticking point?

A. Among the major issues, the teachers are negotiating over the length of the school day, objecting to their evaluations being tied to performance and fretting about potential job losses.

Q. How would the length of school days change?

A. Elementary students would gain 75 minutes to create a seven-hour school day. High school students would gain 30 minutes to create a seven-and-a-half-hour school day. Teachers wants additional money to teach the additional hours.

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Filed under: Issues • Policy • teacher unions • Teachers
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Wilma Fingerdo

    If you're interested in how "underpaid" teachers are, here is the complete teacher salary database for the Chicago School District (2011):

    Find any teacher's salary in the state of Illinois here:

    September 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  2. Logic

    Okay so I went to the CPS website and downloaded the comprehensive annual financial report, and wanted to confirm the salaries of the teachers. I have to admit I was a little shocked in how much teaches make. So if you look at page 198 of the report, you'll find that teaches make a minimum of $47,268/yr and a max of $88,680/yr in 2011. So that isn't much, however you have to add in the pension of the teaches, because, they don't have to contribute to a 401K like the rest of us, well, because they are getting guaranteed money for retirement.

    So, lets play with some numbers....

    After receiving your bachelors in education, you except a job at CPS. You'll earn a minimum of $47,268/yr. However you have a pension, therefore, there is not need to contribute to a 401K plan like a person working in corporate America. In 2011, you are able to contribute up to $16,500/yr into a 401K plan. This is about the right amount to contribute if one wants to retire at 59.5 yrs of age. Therefore the person entering into the education field is really earning $47,268/yr base, plus $16,500/yr in benefits. So, the CPS teacher really earns a minimum of $63,768/yr, and maximum of $105,180/yr if you consider the pension...

    Did you make a minimum of $63,768/yr when you graduated from college with a bachelors degree? Also, it states that you are eligible to earn the maximum salary after working for 14 years. A teacher entering the field of education with a doctorates degree is eligible to earn the maximum salary.

    So lets look at the amount of time teacher work in CPS...

    A full year is only 180 days, each day is 7.5 hours of work (only 6.5 hours of instruction), as stated here.

    Lets do some more math...

    I work 260 days per year at 8 hours per day, with 15 days vacation + 6 paid holidays:

    260- (15 + 6) = 238 day per year

    So I work a total of 238*8 = Corporate America Employee works 1904 hours per year.

    A CPS teach works 180 days for only 7.5 hours per day = CPS teacher works 1350 hours per year

    Therefore if I get paid $47,268/yr without a pension, then I make 47,268/1904 = Corporate America Employee earning $47,268/yr makes $24.82 per hour

    CPS Teacher working 1350 hrs per year earning $47,268/yr makes $35.01 per hour without compensation of the pension.

    Compensate for the pension, then a CPS Teach with a pension makes (47,268 + 16500)/1350 = $47.13 per hour with compensation of a pension.

    So a teacher with a 4 year bachelors degree with no work experience will earn a minimum of $47.13/per hour with compensation of a pension...

    September 18, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Angela

      Again, someone who hasn't been in a classroom since they graduated from college, who is not an educator crunching numbers and presenting out-of-context "facts," attempting to make teachers sound like they're getting a sweet deal and the rest of society is getting the shaft. Boo hoo. $16,000+ per year in benefits? Where does that come from? If it's from the Federal TIF "Grant" (do you even know what this is?) then no thank you. I teach in Missouri and my pension comes out of my pocket, the same as anyones'. Ever heard there's no such thing as a free lunch? Yeah, we pay for that too - just like everyone else. And a 7.5 or 6 .5 hour work day? Do you think we just pull lessons out of our ears? Kids are smart and if teachers are going to give them a fair shake and challenge them, then why would anyone think that we ourselves are not challenged? We appreciate the suggestion that we're so brilliant that we just inherently know everything and how to impart it, but we do, in fact, have to work too. And then do those assessments of skills just assess themselves? To say nothing of the countless hours spent sponsoring extracurricular activities, coaching and being required to earn graduate degrees in order to keep our jobs.

      September 18, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Caring People

      It seems as though you are missing so much information in your mathematical equation. Where is the time involved with creating lessons, assesments, grading homework, tests, and quizzes? Or perhaps that is being done while teaching lessons. Where is the compensation for working with parents and children outside of the typical school day? The time off for work in the summer? That is not really paid time. The day with the students is just the beginning of the work. And please state how many kids other than your own (if you have them) do you put so much time, patience, energy and care into on a regular, daily basis?

      One of the most important pieces of knowledge in life is the understanding that we as people do not know everything. This includes the demands and requirements of another persons profession. Maybe to help a teacher and gain understanding you can offer to help him/her in some way. Have a good day at work tomorrow!

      September 18, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  3. Jared

    Let me tell you first hand how hard teacher’s work. I spent the first 18 years of my life working on a dairy farm. Hard work! The next 10 years were spent in the medical field and the 10 years after that, in the computer industry. Again, hard work! I also spent seven years in state government. Yes, all hard work! However, none of these jobs hold a candle to the work that I had done over the last nine years as a teacher. I typically work 75 hours a week just to stay on top of things. The stress level is more than most anybody will ever have to deal with other than maybe the military, police and stockbrokers. I am tired of hearing from everyone who thinks they understand what teachers go through. Until you are a teacher managing 160 kids each semester, shut up and mind your own business. We get paid to deal with your rotten kid, because no one else wants too.

    September 18, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Aurora

      Not going to argue with you that it's a tough job. But you picked your profession.

      September 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  4. bob

    This is what Obama breeds, malcontent teachers who want more for less. They learn well from Obama, gimee, gimee, gimee. Rahm is trying to pull a Scott Walker (take that democrats and unions) and lets hope he succeeds.

    September 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  5. chris

    $67,000+ a year they average....Plus pension benifits...To work less hours than a average person and oh yeah....**.get the summer off (2-3 months)**. Oh thats right most don't get close to that for 12 months a year and 8.5 hour days. My money seems well spent on this. Anyone on this post site get that sweet deal and paid out unused personal days also? The never to also get mad that you'll get held to performance standards. Better not hold your students to them either I guess. I'm tired of you cry baby teachers wanting more money and more pay to do less. Some of the biggest school systems in the nation have higher budgets and pay than some counties full GDP they have. My child goes to a catholic School and gets a better eductation than a public school all cheaper than the school district gets from my tax bill. Why is this possible....easy red tap and you have no option to go anyware else unless you can afford another school plus the amount you continue to pay on your tax bill....since they don't give that money back if you don't use it.

    I say fire them all and take teacher that want to teach and bring them in at a new salary level. Any money saved gets refunded back to the Tax payers

    September 18, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • chris

      never=nerve..... hit the button by mistake

      September 18, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
      • chris

        actually a few typos but I have other issues to work on instead of editing....later

        September 18, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Bob

      As an aspiring teacher, I an understand some of the misconceptions that some have. Yes, we are only in class a certain part of the day, however our job doesn't end at three when the school day is over. Time is spent planning before a class, grading after school or on weekends, or doing other school related activites. Also, getting that 2-3 month summer break. There is no pay for that, they just take your ten month pay check and pay it over 12. Whether or not that's the case in Chicago, you would probably be more informed on that. Second, while I'm not close to Chicago and cannot say that I'm totally aware of what is going on it is a different story when someone else's performance determines you're job status, especially when that person could be ten years old. While I don't know what you're job entails it is most likely the case that if you do a good job you get rewarded, if not you get fired. In the case of teachers, they can be the best in the world, yet if the kids have a bad day, are bad at tests, or don't like the teacher in the end the teacher suffers. That I don't agree with. Every profession needs to be held accountable for their performance. Maybe another system would work better. Who knows


      September 18, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Angela

      When you, sir or madam, become a teacher, have taught in ANY school, dealt with students, parents, bureaucracy, incessant changes in policy, curriculum, expectations all while being required to remain positive while sacrificing time, money, blood sweat and tears for other peoples' kids and being paid a penance for doing so ($67,000 a year = big money? where do you live?), then you will have earned the right to complain. Short days? Summers off? For some, yes. This is the exception, not the rule and I am truly sorry that your experience with public educators has been thus. But PLEASE DO NOT lump all educators, especially those in the inner city public schools of Chicago, with whatever slovenly pedants you've encountered. Fire them all? And replace them with who? You? God save us all. In case you've not noticed, there aren't people exactly breaking down the doors begging to be public school teachers. It's a calling. And for every hateful, jaded individual like yourself, there are dozens more who've had a teacher tough their lives and make a difference. If it were as easy as you believe, everyone would be a teacher.

      September 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
      • Aurora

        Like you said, Angela, it's a calling. You picked your profession just like I picked mine. However I don't have the luxury of complaining and striking because I put on my big girl panties and get my job DONE.

        September 18, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • In Debt because of my student loans to be a teacher

      Teachers do NOT get their pensions for free. WE PAY INTO THEM like everyone else pays into a 401k.
      I am up to my eyeballs in student debt to have my masters then my sixth year and then my reading cert., etc.. I have to keep going back to school to keep up with the current ed. trends and so that I might be able to get a raise!
      In the corporate world, many NON Management Types have nothing higher than a Bachelors Degree. Our schooling compares to someone in Senior management in any corporate company. Yet they make into the 6 figures. Do we?
      And some of these people make widgets. WE TEACH CHILDREN. Which is more important?
      By the way, the PUBLIC schools teachers are better trained and are 100% cerified by the State Dept. of Ed. into the most current teaching techniques. Ask the principal at your Catholic school how many teachers are certified. You would be surprised.

      September 18, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Woods

      Chirs, if you fire the teachers and offer them a lower salary, they won't come back. Who do you want teaching your children? Teachers just want a salary to take care of themselves and their family just like any other college educated professional. These are people with bachelors degrees, masters degrees, multiple certificates from the state and nation and years of experience. Do you really think they want to work for peanuts?

      September 18, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  6. Desmera

    "Teachers wants additional money to teach the additional ...."

    Teachers WANTS? Whomever wrote this article should have their grammar teacher evaluated for sure!

    September 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  7. Skeptic

    Really – they don't want their job evaluations to be tied to their performance? Nonsense!

    September 18, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Angela

      No, they don't want their jobs tied to STUDENT performance. There's a big difference. Your reading comprehension teacher should be evaluated!

      September 18, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  8. LogicalThinker

    Those poor children are caught in the midst of all of this strife. This isn't healthy for them by any means. I hope an agreement is promptly reached for the sake of the kids.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  9. chris treat

    What is the average pay for teachers after three, ten and 20 years? What are their current obligations and evaluation standards?

    September 18, 2012 at 4:13 am |