What to know: Chicago Teachers Union’s contract demands

September 3, 2019

Experts available to comment on CTU’s contract terms, which would cost taxpayers millions in the first year

CHICAGO (Sept. 3, 2019) – First day of school excitement could quickly cease for Chicago students as the Chicago Teachers Union considers its third strike in seven years.

Refusing to accept Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s recommendations, CTU is demanding contract requirements such as annual 5% raises over three years and 4,000 new support staff. The union demands would take the average teacher salary from about $79,000 to just below $100,000 when step increases are factored in.

Illinois Policy Institute analysis shows these terms would cost taxpayers millions in the first year alone and either lead to tax hikes or deficit spending.

Experts from the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute are available for media interviews in Chicago, Springfield and across Illinois.

Background:

  • The average Chicago Public Schools teacher earns $78,961. CPS has the highest average salary among school districts in 10 of the nation’s 13 largest cities when adjusted for cost of living.
  • Under CTU’s demands, the average CPS teacher’s salary would jump to $91,407 from $78,961 in just three years, not accounting for automatic raises based on seniority and education known as “step increases.” CPS estimates that when step increases are included, the average teacher would see a 24% raise, bringing the average salary to $97,757.
  • Meanwhile, the median household income in Chicago is $52,497.
  • The base salary at CPS tops more than 99% of Illinois districts.
  • Student enrollment has dropped significantly in CPS, with the district serving 372,214 in 2018, down from 395,079 in 2014.
  • This drop in student enrollment makes sense when considering Chicago’s population losses. Chicago’s population was 2,705,994 on July 1, 2018, per the U.S. Census Bureau. It has declined every year since 2014, when the population was 2,728,524.
  • CPS spends $15,412 per student. That’s $2,075, or 16%, higher than the state average.
  • Pension costs and debt eat up nearly half of CPS’ budget. Last year, CPS spent $763 million on pension and retirement benefits while $651 million went to debt service.
  • The Chicago Teachers Pension Fund was only 48% funded and had almost $12 billion in debt as of June 30, 2018.

Quote from Adam Schuster, director of budget and tax research for the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute: 

“The Chicago Teachers Union’s demands are a political power play intended to establish dominance over a new mayor. Their demands have nothing to do with students, who will suffer if the union strikes, or the families in the district, who will have to scramble for care if teachers walk out. Those same families, many of whom are struggling financially, will likely be hit with higher taxes if the union gets what it wants.

“CTU’s unwillingness to deal with budgetary limitations for Chicagoans and the state has tied Lightfoot’s hands when it comes to Chicago’s $29.2 billion pension debt. If we don’t get pension reform at the state level and unions continue to demand unaffordable contracts, Chicago property taxes will go up.”

To read the Illinois Policy Institute’s analysis of the economic impact of CTU’s contract demands, visit: illin.is/ctudemands

For bookings or interviews, contact media@illinoispolicy.org or (312) 607-4977