Explaining What They’re Thinking

An article by Kim Geiger in the Chicago Tribune casts a little light on how the members of the Chicago Teachers Union are thinking:

Under Lightfoot’s proposal, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 10 years of experience today would see his or her salary increase to $95,604 by year five of the contract. That amount is $11,000, or 13%, more than the current teacher with 15 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree earns today. A teacher with a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience today would go from a salary of $58,315 to a salary of $81,701 in five years. That’s about $6,500 more than the $75,083 earned today by a similar teacher, or an increase of about 2% each year.

There are all sorts of problems with that calculus but I’ll just consider a few of them.

First, they want to be paid based on inputs rather than on outputs. I honestly don’t know any private company in which that would be the case. They’re estimating that the value of the hypothetical teacher five years from now will greater than the value of that same teacher today so his or her pay should reflect that. That’s not the way things work in the real world. You’re paid based on the expected outputs of other people who may only resemble you superficially.

I know more and am, presumably, more valuable than I was 30 years ago. If I want to earn more than I’m making now in practical terms I should look for another job. The problem that the Chicago teachers have is that they’re already making more than not just anybody in nearby districts but more than teachers in the other major school districts in the country.

Second, since every dollar received by a Chicago teacher must come from a real life resident of Chicago, as a matter of practical necessity teacher pay must be tethered to the ability of the people of Chicago to pay. Calculate the total earnings of all of the people who live in the city of Chicago. For teacher pay to rise faster than that amount you must take more money away from those other people. Eventually, people get fed up and move away. That’s has been happening for years. As fewer Chicagoans are available to pay taxes, even more money must be taken from them. It’s a vicious circle.

4 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    2% a year is generally considered to be a cost of living raise. If Chicago teachers are making a lot more money then teachers in the area, or teachers in the rest of the country, then the city needs to do what Ed Rendell did many years ago. He had the salaries of city workers published and then had details put in about how they earned their money. It included a description of how it took 4-5 different workers from different unions to change a bulb at the airport. Public support shifted immediately aways from the unions and they caved quickly.


  • 2% a year is generally considered to be a cost of living raise.

    That was my point. They’re using a squirrely calculation to come up with that. The actual raise is nearly double that.

  • PD Shaw Link

    On the other hand, the State passed a law raising the minimum salary for teachers to $32,000, with step increases to $40,000 in four years. This appears to be an unfunded mandate, though there is a provision that somehow allows pension funding to count towards the minimum.

    The premise of this increase was that the state has faced a teacher’s shortage, and while the previous minimum salary was approximately $10,000 per year, most schools found an invisible hand compelled them to pay much more than that. Nine school districts in the state paid entry level positions less then $30,000, apparently in the rural Southeast part of the state with a low property tax base. The long-term outcome will probably be fewer teaching positions, which is a strange way to solve a shortage.

    And when the floor reaches $40,000, it will be above most of downstate starting teacher salaries. And teachers are already complaining that only raising starting salaries fails to recognize the value of the experience of those that have been teaching for years. I expect to see a rise in teacher contract disputes downstate based upon a law that didn’t make any economic sense.

  • Guarneri Link

    Fire 3/4 of the administrators and give those teachers PD references a raise.

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