Dylan Matthews over at The Washington Post has done some digging and come up with better figures than I was able to on what Chicago teachers earn. I’m going to take the liberty of quoting a larger snippet than would normally be my practice:
Luckily, we don’t have to guess, since CPS publishes median salary statistics (see page 198 in this pdf). As is often the case with stats like these, the median salary is below the mean: for the 2010-11 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, the median salary was $67,974, as opposed to the mean of $74,236 that year (as reported, pdf, by the Illinois State Board of Education). That mean is slightly different than the one reported by CPS because it relies on more recent ISBE data.
Some of that salary has to go to pension contributions. Teachers are required to contribute 9 percent of their salary to their pensions, and support personnel must contribute 8.5 percent, as opposed to 6.2 percent if they were part of the Social Security system. But the Chicago Public Schools system pays for 7 percent of the employee contribution. So the more relevant comparison is a 1.5 to 2 percent contribution for CPS employees compared to 6.2 percent for private sector workers paying Social Security tax. So the median after-pension income is $66,614, which a private sector employee on Social Security would need to earn $71,017 a year to make. So a median of $71,017 (or a mean of $77,560) is the most relevant number for comparing Chicago public school teachers to other workers.
What about the longer school day that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is implementing? The school day is increasing from five hours and forty-five minutes for elementary school and seven hours for high school, to seven and seven and a half hours, respectively. Isn’t an increase in hours of that scale effectively a wage cut, in per-hour terms?
Not a big one. Under a deal reached by Emanuel and the Chicago Teachers’ Union in July, almost 500 new teachers will be hired to enable the new schedule, and while high school teachers will have to work another 14 minutes every day, elementary and middle school teachers’ hours won’t change at all. So the overall effect on per-worker hours is minimal.
None of this is to say anything about whether the average teacher’s salary is at the right level. It’s just to say that a fair read of the numbers suggests that $71,017 is a much more accurate estimate of what a typical Chicago public school teacher makes than $56,720.
Based on a lower median wage than I had previously found quoted, I can say with confidence that my previous calculation of half of Chicago teachers being in the top 10% of income earners residing in the city of Chicago was not correct.
However, the balance of my point remains. Chicago only has two means of raising revenues: property taxes and sales taxes. Both are regressive. Chicago already has the highest sales tax of any major city in the United States. The last time the sales tax rate was increased revenues did not increase by the amount of the increase in the tax (as I had predicted) due to lost sales.
Chicago’s only remaining practical recourse is to increase the property tax. Even without an increase in teacher salaries the CPS is already in the red by at least $600 million and, all other things being equal, will be in the red by another $1 billion. That’s going to fall pretty heavily on people on a fixed income.
Update to the Update
According to the NEA Illinois ranks dead last among the states in the percentage of public school revenues that come from the state—a measly 18%. That’s why I keep harping on what increases mean to Chicagoans. Chicagoans carry nearly all of the freight for CPS. That’s dramatically different from New York, Texas, or California. The situations are simply not comparable.
Chicagoans are responsible for paying the pensions of retired CPS teachers, too. Chicago is the only city in the state for which that’s the case.