For All Teachers' Whining, Almost Half of Chicago Area Teachers Make $100K a Year

-By Warner Todd Huston

As the Obama economy tumbles farther and farther down into depression, as states begin to face the reality of a budget crunch that can only be solved by layoffs of public employees, and as teachers find they are open to those layoffs, we commonly hear teachers claim that they are perennially underpaid and don’t deserve layoffs. Yet the Chicago Tribune has found that nearly half the teachers in many of Chicago’s ritziest suburbs are making over $100,000 a year in salary.

The Tribune reviewed the salary information of 132,000 Illinois teachers and in Highland Park, Deerfield, Park Ridge, Hinsdale, and other Chicago area suburbs it found that in some cases half the teachers — and in other cases over 40% — make $100K yearly (not including benefits) even as the educational system in Illinois crying poor and cutting staff.

The Trib found that only four percent of Illinois teachers make the big bucks, but those higher salaries are concentrated in the Chicago suburbs in question. “In all, 32 Chicago-area districts paid at least 20 percent of their teachers six figures — five times the state average.”

Naturally these teachers say they deserve the pay scale and their unions certainly won’t try to put sensible limits on anything. But this raises the question of just how much a teacher is worth? Remember the old argument questioning why a factory worker that puts a nut on a bolt would make $30 an hour for such unskilled labor? Do teachers deserve $100K even if they are the best of the best? How much is too much especially in a day and age when money is tight and so many are losing their jobs?

The Trib also found the highest paid Illinois teacher:

A now-retired physical education teacher and longtime football coach at Addison Trail High School in DuPage County earned more than $184,000 in 2008-09 — the highest teacher salary in the Tribune’s analysis. He had 35 years of teaching experience and a master’s degree, all factors that boosted his salary.

A phys ed teacher and coach? Does a simple jock warrant almost $200,000 a year?? He isn’t a rocket scientist… heck he may not even know what science IS being a mere phys ed teacher!

We all want what’s fair for teachers and, yes, their job is supremely important. However, should a high school or grade school teacher make as much as a surgeon or highly educated and skilled doctor, lawyer or judge?

Further, should a mere phys ed teacher be making almost $200,000 a year while a new teacher gets laid off? Should one guy be making what could pay two teacher’s salaries?

We really need to take some pains to address this situation.

(Originally posted at


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  • The article clearly states these are long term teachers with advanced degrees in the most wealthy suburbs around Chicago. A quick check will tell you that the average starting pay for CPS teachers is far, far, less with classroom conditions that are almost comical compared to those of , say, Highland Park. Before Joe Sixpack gets on his high horse about those 'greedy teachers' let's get some perspective. The suburbs use a different formunla to fund their schools, mostly through property taxes paid by wealthy citizens who own expensive homes and pay for the privlage to avoid the urban pitfalls the city of Chicago faces. Starting salary for a first time teacher at CPS is less than $40,000 a year and before your readers get up in arms about even that paulty sum, that's less than what the store manager of a middle to big box retail store earns (Barnes and Noble, or Pottery Barn for example). Readers should check out "State of the Nation" by Jonathan Kozol to better understand the conditions urban children (and poor suburban children) face when their schools are funded from an underfunded state education system, or worthless property taxes. Unfortunately education is not funded proportionatly to it's importance in our society, if it were, teachers would be well trained, paid like Wall Street CEO's, our schools would be palaces, and our children would already be leading the world in clean energy solutions, affordable healthcare, and educational excellence.

    Question: It takes 5 to 10 years to build a prison. How does a state know how many prisons it will need in 10 years? Answer, they look at the percentage of kids who fail their 3rd grade statewide tests and extrapolate that to the projected population in ten years, and then add prison capacity. Wouldn't it be a better idea to teach our children better and save that prison money for something like, oh I don't know, debt reduction?

  • In reply to rocmonster:

    You OBVIOUSLY have NOT been in a classroom at a school in Highland Park. They leave ALOT to be desired in terms of the conditions of the schools themselves! Benefits for teachers with families are by no means "free" - people need to get their facts straight before posting on sites like these!

  • In reply to rocmonster:

    the docs and lawyers make way more money to afford the course work that keeps their credentials updated - The AVG teacher is NOT making $100K! When teachers take their course to keep their certificates updated, the tuition costs are out of pocket no reimbursed by a firm, corporation or other...Get your facts straight people!

  • In reply to rocmonster:

    Your title says "almost half of Chicago area teachers make more that $100K" That is a complete misrepresentation and just whips people up into another anti-teacher frenzy. Do you really think that it is unreasonable that 4% of the teachers in the state make that kind of money? And you are going to hold it against the vast majority of teachers in the state that are in fact underpaid for the job that they do? Nice. Obviously the journalism teacher that taught you ethics wasn't very effective. How much you think they were making?

    Try spending some time with teachers who work in some of the top paying districts in the area and you will be suprised at how smart and effective most of them are. It is a competitive field and generally those with the most impressive and difficult to find skill sets are going to get the highest paying jobs. I know a chemistry teacher who earned a chemistry degree from Purdue with a 4.0 GPA, has a highly affective personality and is a dynamic and highly favored teacher. She would have been a top recruit in any field and I think it's great that she will be making over 100K after 16 years in the classroom (assuming she's put in the 90 hours of graduate work to move over on the payscale).

  • In reply to celeratis:

    the truth is that the people that most understand the value of education pay their teachers well. that is why you see the wealthiest north suburbs on the top of the best paid teacher lists. the people who complain the most about teacher salaries are the ones who have children who can barely read, and they couldn't care less. as long as they fill their stomach and have batteries in the remote, all is well

  • In reply to celeratis:

    None of us would know how to read or write without teachers. To me, those are priceless skills. Without teachers, there would be no doctors to help you stay healthy, lawyers to defend you, or public service men and women to keep you safe.

  • In reply to celeratis:

    The football coach is a poor example, as there are college coaches making millions. Football is a revenue sport, even in high school, and a good football program can provide revenue for many other sports, facilities, etc.

    Teachers' salaries however should be market driven and not union mandated, and that happens to a certain extent now with some schools paying more to math and science teachers who could make more in the private sector.

    Eliminate the unions from any taxpayer funded organization and these salaries and benefits will be based on competitive market forces rather something guaranteed to all who make tenure.

    Taxpayers have no appetite for these types of entitlements anymore, especially with the growing pension problems this state is facing.

  • In reply to Bumsteer:

    Good point regarding tenure. The only reasonable purpose to have tenure anymore is to keep districts from just cutting from the to (some of the best and most experienced educators) when budgets get tight.

    It can take a good 15, 20, or more years for a passionate educator to reach their potential in the classroom. To cut the best and higher new to save money would hurt many many students.

    The negative side of tenure, it can and does promote mediocrity amongst some. The ones that really should be let go.

  • In reply to KirkMango:

    oops, "cutting from the top"

  • In reply to Bumsteer:

    People fail to realize that poor teachers with tenure can be fired. There is a process in place however many administrators don't want put in the effort to do so. It takes four years for a teacher to get tenure in Illinois now. In that time that teacher is (or should be) monitored and observed heavily and can be let go at any point for any reason. And for several years after that games can be played with the staffing to eliminate a position and easily remove the tenured teacher with the least seniority. Then after that, as I said before, ANY tenured teacher can be let go after a process of warnings and remediation.

    I'd like to see us move in the other direction and provide more protections for more workers rather than take that protection away from those few areas that have managed to hold onto it.

  • You know what...I think I have to agree with you here. Personally, I don't think anyone, scientist or banker, ought to make more than the leader of the free world, $400,000--not that teachers are making that much. Really it's become a great living, exempting them from any sort of whining.

  • In reply to jtithof:

    You do realize that the "leader of the free world" gets to live for free in a mansion, gets free transportation both ground and air, and gets a pension after his/her term, right? This adds up to a lot that would be considered on top of the $400k. I think that they have the right idea already that the President should be the highest paid "Federal Employee", not the highest paid individual in the world. Capping the salary of a private firm employee, or an entrepreneur is flat out wrong.

    Plus, these teachers are likely working at private schools, not public. They have the education to back their income. How about the professional athletes making $20 million a year with a high school education? (Not that I care how much they make - again, it's private). Why must we attack the teachers when they're EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN? If salaries are too low, then people with great minds who can help educate our future will be steered away from teaching due to the poor pay.

  • In reply to elga:

    I don't think people are attacking teachers, they're attacking the level of income they earn. In addition, it's always been my understanding that private school teachers earn FAR less than public school teachers--at least when my dad taught school. I suppose it's like any other profession when it comes to aptitude, because for every "great mind" I've encountered, I've seen, heard of, or read about an equal amount of teachers who are just the opposite. Trust me they're not all rocket scientists.

  • In reply to jtithof:

    "I've seen, heard of, or read about an equal amount of teachers who are just the opposite."

    Unless your are in the field of education and no that for a fact it is inappropriate to make such a statement. This is a false premise, an understandle one but still false.

  • In reply to KirkMango:

    Oops, have to start proof reading before I hit "Post Comment."

    Unless your are in the field of education and KNOW that for a fact it is inappropriate to make such a statement. This is a false premise, an understandle one but still false.

  • In reply to elga:

    The title of this article was very misleading. The was 'For All Teachers' Whining, Almost Half of Chicago Area Teachers Make $100K a Year', which isn't true: half of all Chicago Area Teachers do NOT make over $100K.

    The article then states "Yet the Chicago Tribune has found that nearly half the teachers in many of Chicago's ritziest suburbs are making over $100,000 a year in salary." A little bit af back-pedalling. The article should have been entitled 'Wealthy School Districts Pay More". Hardly big news.

  • In reply to jtithof:

    I CAN'T BELIEVE MY EYES!! I am a teacher in Indiana. Born and raised in Chicago but moved to central Indiana for my undergrad work. $8750/year was my first teaching salary-with coaching. This was 1976. Since then, I have paid for out of my own pocket my Master's education and hours over it. I have been elevated to department chair ($200 per year extra) and in charge of the design facility for the high school ($500 per year), these along with my 34 years experience make $52125 before taxes, health insurance (which has a $500 deductible per family and $200 per person) and our mandatory retirement fund deduction. This is divided into 26 pays according to our contract.
    It does not matter what subject matter you teach- we are required and accountable to meet state guidelines and unless this is happening our job will be terminated. There is not a teacher union that can do otherwise.
    On the salary of the single income family of an educator, we qualify for food stamps. I have raised four children on my teaching income, but have also worked two other part times jobs to make ends meet.
    To compare teaching with physicians is not the issue. To compare teaching with professional athletes and entertainers is not the issue.
    Teaching is not showing videos and cleaning our nails. On many occasions, I am the dad for counseling, the ride to school or from the drunken party, the shoulder when unwanted pregnancy occurs or parental abuse strikes. I hear complaints from parents that no child should hear about them and take complaints that no human should hear regarding my teaching standards. When a teacher exhibits a desire to raise the standard and not permit good enough to get by, we're not being fair. But when the students' fail to get into college on entrance exams, it's our fault.
    I have been a part of the department of education for the state evaluating committees and proud of what teachers are doing behind the scenes as well as in front. $100,000 a year to me is not the issue, for most teachers aren't about the salary, we're about our students.

  • In reply to profwoodard:

    We're talking about Illinois, not Indiana. Depending on what you teach and how good you are, I'll agree that your $52K sounds too low. In my district (I've read the contract), a teacher with an MS and no experience starts for $53K before extracarriculars, and they can get up to 100K pretty quickly.

    Check on It lists Illinois as the #1 "comfortable" state for teachers.

    Is teaching "hard"? It's a job. Find me a job you think is easy, and somebody who does it will disagree with you. I think teaching looks easy, but you may say that about my job (which I consider "hard").

  • In reply to BigDMcGee:

    The Washington Post in 2006 published a story that stated "Half of Teachers Quit in 5 Years." Not sure that holds up today, however, within the last year a news report in the Chicagoland area (cannot remember which station) reported that 1/3rd of teachers leave in the first 5 years, leave on their own accord.

    Why do you think that is???

  • In reply to KirkMango:

    Because they are mostly women, who get married and have kids and stay home with them? Just my guess. Are they going to work in the private sector, or just quitting? On a national average, how many women quit work in the first few years (all fields)? I'll bet a relatively large number, mostly because they start families.

  • In reply to BigDMcGee:

    "Because they are mostly women, who get married and have kids and stay home with them?"

    That may account for a few but not the majority who leave. Nice guess though.

    "Are they going to work in the private sector, or just quitting?"

    Yes, most. Reason - the belief that there is more

  • In reply to KirkMango:

    There has always been a high number of beginning teachers that leave the profession pretty quickly. I personally think its because it is such a hard job to do if you don't have a passion for it. And when you are struggling in a classroom it is hard to face it every day. It is also difficult to turn a tough class around, once it has started downhill its like wrestling a oiled pig to get it back under control.

    Also, even when it is going well teaching is like parenting in that it's a pretty thankless job. If you work for hours putting together what you think is an engaging class period, no one will thank you for it. The most you can hope for is that they don't complain about it. But if you can stick it out, gratitude will eventually trickle its way back to you.

  • In reply to celeratis:

    Yes, how many occupations are there that an employee can swear at their boss, disrespect them in other ways, not show any effort to do a good job, and demonstrate a laissez faire attitude toward their work and still hold that job?

    This is something that happens every day at every school in this country, and the teacher will have to deal with them and find a way to try and motivate them for a whole semester or school year.

    And even if there are other occupations with the same issues, it is more important to not have those issues in our schools. The impact is far reaching.

  • Most government employees, but especially teachers salaries are getting out of control. You can look up the teachers contract on your district web site. In my district, the teachers start at $46,077 with a BA and get automatic 5-6% raises each year. They start at $53,449 with a MS. That is more than my company hires engineers for (out of UofI, Purdue, Michigan, ... with EE or CS degrees).

    You tell me, do teachers make too much? I think so. Also, I think it is dumb to compare teachers to bankers, or professional athlete salaries. Teachers are paid out of our tax dollars.

    You have to ask yourself, why do teachers get such good pay and benefits? Is there a shortage of them? Does the market demand that level of pay and benefits? Would other school districts hire them away? No, no, and no. It's because the unions donate big bucks to politicians, and school boards are typically undertrained moms and dads that aren't fit to negotiate with the unions.

  • In reply to BigDMcGee:

    well, i doubt your children are worth a teacher making $46k. please, go cheap, everyone knows that all the real engineering work in the next decade will be in india and china anyway. is that in your fabulous book too? there must be a chapter on saving the american taxpayer some money by outsourcing tech jobs to emerging economies!

  • In reply to peeplesuc:

    I'm well aware of it. I don't think it is a good thing, but in a free market economy, labor is a commodity like everything else. Used to be (15 years ago), unskilled labor was outsourced overseas or to Mexico. Now skilled labor like engineering is going to India and China, where workers make 1/3 what workers in the US make.

    How does this relate to teachers and public workers? Fewer high paying private sector jobs in the US means fewer taxpayer dollars generated to pay the public sector employees.

  • In reply to peeplesuc:

    Before people get all hyper, let's review the facts:

    The Tribune has it in for teachers because they support the Dems. The Trib is no friend of education.

    Taxes: Taxes were used to build Soldier Field and US Cellular Field for professional teams drowning in money.

    Politicians: Illinois Reps and Senators work less than 5 months or about one-half of a teacher.

    School boards: YOUR elected officials pay the teachers.

    Unions: A tentative agreement in construction will give members a 3% + salary increase. This money will be paid by your taxes for roads and schools.

    Tenure: Any teacher can be removed because of poor performance.

    Teachers: 96% of the teachers in Illinois do NOT make $100,000.

    Before you fill this space with your comments ask yourself:

    Why do politicians earn more per day than a teacher?

    Why do we pour so much money into government and yet the Trib rarely reports on it?

    Why is it okay to pour millions of tax dollars into a palace that hosts ten professional sport games a year and get all ruffled about teacher's salaries? (Soldier Field)

    Why don't the stooges at the Trib report on: Salaries and Benefits of Township officials and State Reps and Senators, the dollars in taxes to fund the new union construction contract, the corporations that pay little or no income taxes, the railroads that don't pay their fair share of property taxes, the high income professionals who pay very little income taxes, and finally why not have a forensic audit of state finances and publish the results?

  • In reply to zakyak:

    Some point by point observations...

    I think Democrats are more pro-teacher than Republicans, and teacher unions typically support democrats.

    I don't have the numbers, but I'd guess most sports teams bring in big bucks to the local economy between fans and jobs.

    Public unions are evil (my thoughts) and cost the taxpayers lots of money, because unlike private unions, there are no checks and balances. In private industry, management tries to limit labor costs. In public service - who says "no" to raising salaries? Apparently nobody.

    Yes, everyone paid out of taxpayer dollars (and contracts, benefits, ...) need to be reviewed. I think you will find lots and lots of waste.

    I forgot where I've seen all the articles, but I read the Trib and Sun-Times, and local papers. They all have had a lot of articles recently about wasted taxpayer dollars. Stroeger, Quinn, teachers, firefighters, ... all people on the public payroll should be subject to scrutiny. When the economy was good, I think people didn't care as much, and the state had plenty of money to spend, so they did. They raised salaries, increased benefits, ... whatever. Now there is no money, so everything is being re-examined, and all the waste is being exposed.

  • In reply to BigDMcGee:

    These are all valid points.

  • I'm going to give a shameless plug for a book I am reading: "Unsustainable" by James Macdougald. It's a must read for anyone concerned with government spending (like teacher salaries).

  • For those that demonstrate poor performance in the classroom - no matter what classroom it is, and validate that poor performance by exemplifying the statement

  • "We all want what's fair for teachers and, yes, their job is supremely important. However, should a high school or grade school teacher make as much as a surgeon or highly educated and skilled doctor, lawyer or judge?"

    Why not? Who taught and instilled greatness in those surgeons, doctors, lawyers or judges to attain the their goals?

    Spend one week as a teacher, doing all that needs to be done - lesson plans, differentiated instruction, anecdotal documentation, grading papers, entering grades, and meetings with vertical and horizontal teams all within one week. You will see that it is not a 40 hour week job.

    The state also has a law that states that you must continue your education in order to renew your teaching certificate on your own time. Does a doctor or lawyer need to do the same to keep their license?

  • In reply to ladyfair:

    "The state also has a law that states that you must continue your education in order to renew your teaching certificate on your own time."

    And for many, all their own dollar!!!

  • In reply to ladyfair:

    "The state also has a law that states that you must continue your education in order to renew your teaching certificate on your own time. Does a doctor or lawyer need to do the same to keep their license?"

    Yes - most licensed professions do. And often at their own expense. Teachers, cry me a river. I have relatives who teach in the South and put up with a lot more BS for a fraction of the pay.

  • In reply to pete6677:

    does that make it right? everyone in the south deserves what they get for being so proud of being right to work states. they are all losers for the political choices they have made.

  • In reply to pete6677:

    Yes, that is most likely very true. Same thing occurs here in Illinois. You go south or far west and you will find the similar situations. Usually, the more affluent the community the higher the salary for teachers.

  • In reply to ladyfair:

    I have a doctor friend, a general practitioner, who is definitely not eating government cheese but is also not living high off the hog as people seem to think that all doctors do. He's going to be paying his student loans until he's 53 years old. So, let's look at all the facts.

    $100K to work nine months a year? Not bad work, but frankly, I don't have the strength or patience to work with kids all day.

  • In reply to lucyluwho:

    It is not the time they work but what "good" teachers do that holds value.

  • In reply to ladyfair:

    All of you belly-aching, ask yourself what you would do without teachers. Today, teachers handle so much more than ever. Not only are they responsible for educating our children to ever-changing standards, they are the people millions of people rely on each day to take care of our children during the day, teach values and character education, feed, manage any allergies or medicines that must be taken during the day, keep safe from threats in the neighborhood. Teachers are literally raising hundreds of thousands of children in Chicago without good role models at home.

    BTW, more than 80% of a teachers salary is paid out of the local budget which is why you see such high salaries in the ritziest suburbs. Those aren't entry level salaries. Those are salaries for veteran, 10+ year teachers with advanced degrees who may do multiple jobs within the school or district.

    For what it's worth, I'm not a teacher, nor do I have any kids. I am a taxpayer, and I see the importance of the job teachers are doing. Yes, we have a budget crisis in Illinois, but that stems from YEARS of fiscal mismanagement at the by our state and local government leaders. Don't try to drop this mess at the feet of teachers. Without good teachers, we would be lost.

  • In reply to SuzyQ2U2:

    "Those aren't entry level salaries. Those are salaries for veteran, 10+ year teachers with advanced degrees who may do multiple jobs within the school or district."

    More likely 23+ year teachers with advanced degrees.

  • In reply to ladyfair:

    I think there are 2 unrelated issues here. One is the importance of teachers, the other is the dollar value of teachers. If you take emotions out of the equation, they are unrelated.

    Yes teachers are important, nobody is arguing that fact. But how much are they worth? That is the real issue. Firemen, policemen, people in the military; they are all important. Why don't we just pay all of the 100K per year? Why not 200K per year?

    Keep in mind that teachers unions exist for the benefit of the teachers. Not the students, not the taxpayers.

    Explain why in this economy, teachers are expecting (and getting) 4%, 5%, and 6% raises? Are you happy when your taxes go up by 6% to pay for the teachers' raises?

  • In reply to BigDMcGee:

    Some are moving toward increases in salary based on CPI. I think this trend will continue.

  • In reply to BigDMcGee:

    So you don't think that there are police officers in Illinois that make over 100K a year? I'm going to go out on a limb here and bet that 4% of Illinois police officers make over 100K. I bet they are amazing officers with tons of experience and valuable skills learned over a long career in public safety that would be hired by the best police departments out there. Hey, that sounds a lot like the teachers we are talking about.

    I was unable to find specifics online (not like that handy teacher salary database) but Boston police pay averages $79,000 a year and I saw officer pay in an Illinois town starts at 55,000.

  • In reply to celeratis:

    I agree with you 100%. Everybody paid out of taxpayer dollars should have more oversight than they currently do, including police, fire, teachers, alderman, mayors, ... everyone. Not just what their salary is, but their complete compensation package with benefits and pensions calculated in.

  • In reply to BigDMcGee:

    That is a good point, however, the same principle must be used across the board when looking at compensation.

  • its a shame you live is such a crappy school district, you must be a failure living in some poor community. your children will probably be completely useless due the lousy education they are receiving and will join a gang and end up in prison. you must have a really lousy job with no hope for advancement. good thing you have access to the internet to share your plight with all of us.

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