by Lawrence J. McQuillan, PhD
The Chicago Teachers Union strike drags on. If Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his negotiators at Chicago Public Schools really want to help the city’s children long term, they should propose a package that increases instructional hours and reduces teacher pay slightly while implementing a merit pay system to reward high-performing teachers.
Here’s what the mayor’s team should demand:
First, increase student instructional time by 18 percent. If instructional time in CPS schools were increased to the national average, to 67,392 minutes per year from 57,120 minutes per year, instructional time in Chicago would increase 18 percent. That could be achieved through a combination of a longer school day and longer school year.
An 18 percent pay increase would compensate teachers for the 18 percent increase in student instruction time. The CTU originally asked for a 30 percent pay increase over two years without extending the workday for most teachers.
But pay, on net, should still be cut.
Chicago public school teachers are overpaid by 31 percent (see my earlier blog on this topic). This figure is based on market comparisons of average hourly earnings for full-time Chicago public school teachers to public school teachers in large cities where teacher collective bargaining is prohibited.
Given these figures, the mayor’s team should take off the table current compensation offers and demand an “18 / 13 solution:” an 18 percent increase in instructional hours and a 13 percent reduction in pay, which equals the 31 percent teachers are currently overpaid.
The 18 / 13 approach would bring Chicago’s instructional time up to the national average and bring CPS teacher pay per instructional hour closer to what is paid in large cities where pay is determined more by individual merit and competition than forced collective bargaining.
But even after a 13 percent pay reduction, all CPS teachers would still be paid more than the average teacher pay in the nation’s 10 largest school districts!
A 13 percent pay reduction for teachers would also cut by nearly 40 percent CPS’ fiscal year 2013 budget deficit of $665 million– another reason Mayor Emanuel should embrace this approach. This saving is right off the top before adjusting benefits.
The 18 / 13 solution should be adopted along with a strong teacher evaluation system tied to student achievement that would be used to reward high-performing teachers with merit pay.
If adopted, this package would be a step forward for the quality and financial health of Chicago’s schools. It would also be a legacy that Mayor Emanuel should consider his gift to Chicago’s children, who for too long have been trapped in dysfunctional public schools.