The in box. The $74,000 lie.

Far-right activists as well as even a few mainstream journalists have made wild claims about how much Chicago’s teachers earn. Nightline’s Terry Moran even claimed that the Chicago Teachers Union is doing “much damage” to the profession by striking, and then went on to say that teachers in the city earn an average of $74,000.

That just isn’t true. To fact check this claim, I went to the best source available to the public: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS has data from May 2011 for the Chicago metropolitan area that breaks down the average salary for teachers. Across the profession, teachers in the area were earning an average salary of $56,720. Keep in mind that a median salary would probably be a more accurate picture of what teachers actually earn (veteran teacher salaries will be dragging the number upwards) but that this number is not available. The number is also dragged upward because a number of university staff are included in this calculation (they earn more than public school teachers). We spoke with a BLS official earlier today to confirm the veracity of these numbers.

If you look at the different subsets of teachers, some earn as little an average salary as $44,480 (foreign language teachers). Also keep in mind that the cost of food and living is well above the U.S. average in Chicago.

The only way Chicago’s teachers and students will win this struggle is by not letting misinformation turn the tide of public opinion. Use the Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit buttons on this page to spread the word. (Thanks to labor journalist Doug Henwood for pointing us in the right direction to look for these figures.)

Zaid Jilani*

*This post was originally credited to Kenzo Shibata who requested proper credit be given.


Posted in CTU

19 thoughts on “The in box. The $74,000 lie.

  1. Here is the salary schedule from the 2006 contract. I can’t include the official current tables from the CPS website because those pages are blocked now… CPS has turned off our e-mail and other online tools while we are on strike.

  2. While I agree with this and it correlates with what I found surfing around, you have to be careful with “Chicago metropolitan area” vs. Chicago. In fact, that’s something that needs a great deal more research. The metro area includes poorer suburbs like Cicero and Blue Island, where teacher salaries are well below Chicago’s, but, depending on the exact definition of “metro area”, it can also include a lot of the wealthy northern and western suburbs like Glencoe, Lake Forest, Oak Park and Hinsdale where I’m sure the teachers are making more than Chicago teachers. I for one would like to see the break-out for poor suburbs vs. Chicago vs. rich suburbs.

  3. About misinformation – which fine, billionaire-funded reform group is running the latest commercial against the CTU? I did not catch their name. It has the word “reform” in there. Illinois Reform Now or something like that. Anyone have scoop on this group? Thanks.

  4. Hello Fred,

    Perhaps you can add more light to Joanne’s and the media’s claim of teachers being greedy in Chicago, that their average salary is $74k. The mayor of Chicago is fortunate to be able to afford a tuition at the University of Chicago Lab School for both of his children. He claims that he wants CPS students to have a “world class education”. I would imagine his children receive a world class education at their school. The fact is, as mentioned by other sources, the average salary of a teacher in CPS is well below $74k. Yet at the U of C Lab School, according to data presented in Chicago Magazine in 2007, the average salary for teachers there was $71,884. How much does the average teacher who works at the charter schools that he wants to expand across the city get paid?

    I wonder why the mayor would make his children travel half-way across the city for an education? Could it be that the lunch they serve tastes better? Or is it that his children attend year-round instead of nine months like children who attend public schools in Chicago? Gee, I wonder if it is because the average class size is 16 students compared to the average class size of 30-43 in CPS? CPS teachers are fighting because of working conditions in addition to compensation.

    Has anyone ever looked into what are the credentials and starting salaries for teachers at the U of C Lab School? Before I go any further, someone may claim that that school is private and CPS is public, the “comparing apples to oranges” cliche. Those same people, like Joanne, who would complain are themselves comparing the private and public sectors as being the same in having to “share the pain” of our country’s current economic condition.

    When I stated I wanted you to shed more light on Joanne and the media, I meant that there are more lies being perpetuated. People like Joanne believe this rhetoric and spread it like a virus. One example is the frequently reported claim of CPD adding “1,000 NEW police officers”. What a lie!

  5. I agree with Steve and Dienne. Not only is it not clear what “Chicago Metropolitan Area” means, but even if it were limited to just Chicago, are non-CPS teachers included? Parochial, private, and charter school teachers often make less than public school teachers, and it would be misleading to include them in the data.

  6. Go to Chicago Public Schools website. Go to site map. Choose Teacher Salary Schedule from right hand column. There you go–teacher’s salaries by year experience and additional education. Look around on the site and you will find that the average teacher pension is just under $4k a month. How many taxpayers paying the teachers’ salaries and benefits get a guaranteed benefit pension at all?? Don’t take my word for it; check out CPS site. BLS is of no use in this instance. 🙂

    1. Sorry, Elizabeth. Did you say “look around the site and you will find that the average is just under $4k?” That’s how you figured what the average teacher salary is? By the way, if you pay into Social Security you receive a guaranteed benefit upon retirement. And you don’t pay 9.4% each check like I did. Look around. You’ll see what I mean.

  7. Comparing a single jobs pay scale to the regional average of all jobs which include that job is an invalid methodology, amounting to no more than propaganda. The average wage argument is utterly stupid as it is not comparing people with similar training, skills and responsibility to each other, but merely points out that a well trained and educated worker makes a professional wage while denying they are professionals who deserve that wage. And, as should be obvious, it’s the average wage, so what is the high end of the range and what are the jobs at the high end? Do they pay more than a teachers wage? By how much? What are typical job descriptions for the workers receiving the average wage and how do those jobs compare to the workplace requirements and responsibilities of being a teacher? This attack on the teaching profession would have us believe that comparing apples to doorknobs is acceptable and relevant.

  8. The BLS has data from May 2011 for the Chicago metropolitan area that breaks down the average salary for teachers. Across the profession, teachers in the area were earning an average salary of $56,720. So according to that stat you are speaking of all teachers in that market – not just public school teachers. As the Chicago land area has a strong contingent of religious and private schools, the salaries of those teachers are driving the numbers down. Plus that 56720 does not include the additional 20000 per year in benefits. So the 74000 number is closer to the truth.

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