Education labor board to Chicago Teachers Union: No step-and-lane raises

Education labor board to Chicago Teachers Union: No step-and-lane raises

The value of these raises is estimated at $26 million. CTU wanted the education labor board to compel CPS to pay out, even though the district and the union hadn’t agreed to a labor contract.

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, or IELRB, ruled in favor of the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education on Feb. 18 when it said the district was not required to pay “step and lane” salary increases to members of the Chicago Teachers Union, or CTU. The value of the salary increases is estimated at $26 million.

The CTU wants its members to get raises this year despite having no labor contract in place. The most recent contract expired in June 2015, and the two parties have yet to reach a new agreement. The CTU rejected Chicago Public Schools’, or CPS’, most recent contract offer in early February.

Steps and lanes are part of a complex, arcane and convoluted compensation system for government workers, including CPS employees, that often misleads the public into thinking government workers get smaller raises than they actually do.


Along with the annual raises the media and unions usually report, the salary schedule for CPS teachers also contains automatic salary bumps called step-and-lane increases that add to a teacher’s total compensation. “Steps” refer to tenure, or how many years a teacher has been teaching, and “lanes” refer to the level of education the teacher has attained in a given year.

The 2012 Chicago teachers’ contract had 16 steps. A teacher earns a step raise for every year of service until he or she reaches 16 years of service. The contract also had six lanes. A teacher changes lanes and receives a higher salary as he or she reaches higher levels of education, from a bachelor’s degree all the way up to a doctorate.

These steps and lanes are part of salary schedules that pay all teachers in the same step and lane the same salaries, regardless of those teachers’ skills, effectiveness or achieved outcomes for students. Public school teachers and unions across Illinois have clung to such outdated pay schemes for decades, despite evidence that shows salary schedules reward teachers for things that have little to do with improving student outcomes.

And raises based on a teacher’s education level also waste taxpayer dollars. Numerous studies have demonstrated that boosting teacher pay based on a teacher’s education is inefficient and does nothing to enhance student achievement.

Step-and-lane increases can have a significant effect on teacher salaries. And due to steps and lanes, most teachers’ yearly raises are much higher than what the union says and the media usually reports.

So when the CTU talks about the economic hardship and miniscule salary increases its members have received, remember that the union isn’t telling the whole story.

The IELRB was right to block the salary increases – CPS is broke.

Or as Catalyst Chicago reports James Franczek, CPS’ labor negotiator, to have said regarding the ruling, “You would have to be living in a bubble, under a rock, in a foreign country, on Mars not to know that CPS is in the depths of the most historic fiscal crisis in its history. If you are a reasonable teacher in the Chicago Public Schools system, you would have to be saying to yourself, ‘Are we even going to be having a school system next year?’”

To see a primer and learn more about steps and lanes, click here. To see the complete previous pay schedule for CTU teachers, click here.

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