Chicago Public School Teacher Compensation

In this second installment of my blog series on public education in Chicago leading up to the contract negotiations between the city and the Chicago Teachers Union, I will examine the current compensation system for teachers.

In the first post in this series I compared the performance of Chicago Public Schools to other large Illinois school districts.

This post is meant to examine how teachers in Chicago are compensated compared to the average full time employee living in the city, whose property taxes largely fund the school system.

Since each school district is allowed to govern its own school expenses and teacher compensation, it is useful to line up teacher compensation with that of district taxpayers. It is also important to compare compensation with district student outcomes to see if taxpayers are getting results.

As with the first post in this series, this one is primarily designed to present facts rather than render an opinion.


Teacher hours worked:

There are 170 full school days during which a teacher averages 11 hours of total work. This would total about 1,870 hours of work annually.

According to a report from the University of Illinois’s Labor Education Program, teachers in Chicago work an average of 3.75 hours per weekend during the 38 weekends that make up the school year. This would total about 143 hours of work each year.

There are 2 days of teacher attendance in the absence of students during which teachers work about 8 hours a day. This would total about 16 hours of work in a year.

There are 7 built-in CPS teacher Institute Days. If putting in about 8 hours per day, this would total about 56 hours a year for the average CPS teacher.

During the summer, teachers may spend up to 30 hours on professional development and another 50 hours on preparation for the coming year. This would add up to about 80 hours per year.

Based on these generous  assumptions, the average CPS teacher works about 207 days a year or about 2,165 hours per year. 

Teacher benefits:

Teachers get 2.5 months off in June, July and August, 1 week paid time off in December, 1 week paid time off in April and 10 paid vacation days on the CPS calendar.

CPS teachers receive 10 sick days per year.

CPS teachers receive health coverage and are required to pay a contribution from their base salary toward the plan. Currently the average contribution for a CPS teacher with a family is 1.8% of their base salary. Thus, the average teacher pays $1,282 toward the cost of their health plan. The range in employee contribution is from 1.3% – 2.8% depending on the level of coverage selected.

Teachers hired after 1986 also pay the Medicare Tax (1.45% of base salary, matched by CPS). The average CPS teacher would pay about $1,033.

The average CPS teacher contribution toward the defined benefit Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF) is 2% of their base salary (an average of $1,425). Meanwhile, CPS figures out what 7% of a teacher’s base salary is and adds that number on top of their base salary as additional compensation that goes into the CTPF. The average CPS pension bonus is a little less than $5,000  per year.

CPS teachers paid $1,000.24 in union dues in 2011

Average annual totals for a CPS teacher:

Base Salary: $71,236

Pension: $1,424.72 paid by the average teacher; $4,987 paid by CPS. 

Total base salary/pension per year: $74,798 which if calculated into pay/per hour for the year would add up to about $34.50/hour assuming the teacher used all of their sick days.

Union dues: $1,000.24 regardless of base salary

Health insurance premium per year:  $1,282

Medicare tax: $1,033

Federal income tax assuming only a standard deduction is taken: Appx. $12,291 (16% effective tax rate after deductions)

Illinois State Income tax: Appx. $3,640

Total Avg. Subtractions: Appx. $19,246

Total take home pay for the average CPS teacher: $55,552


Average annual totals for a  full time Chicagoan:

According to Census data, about 75% of Chicago residents make less than $75,000/year.

The Average 9a – 5p worker will actually work about 42.5 hours per week even though they are contracted for 40 hours officially.

If the worker is on a normal calendar schedule they will receive 10 standard holidays and 10 sick days. Thus, the average Chicagoan employed full time would work about 240 days a year or 2,040 working hours a year. That means the average Chicagoan works about 33 more days per year than the average CPS teacher; but, due to shorter work days, is actually working 125 hours less.

The median household income for a Chicagoan is $38,625 thus the average Chicagoan who works 240 days a year makes appx. $19/hour. Thus, the average Chicagoan makes approximately half as much pre-tax income as does a CPS teacher whether measured by salary or an hourly wage.


The average CPS teacher, who has about 14 years of experience, gets a total compensation equal to about $74,798/year  or $34.50/hour. The average percentage of CPS students who meet or exceed state standards is 66%. The percentage of CPS 11th graders who meet college readiness benchmarks is 21% in Reading, 19% in Math, 11% in Science and 38% in English.

The average Chicagoan works a comparable schedule to a CPS teacher, yet earns half as much in total compensation, 33 fewer days off, higher health care costs for lower quality health benefits and either a 401(k) that they contribute heavily into or no retirement package at all.

Thus, under the current union contract, taxpayers are paying teachers double their own salaries in exchange for student achievement that leaves about 80% of graduating CPS high school students below college readiness standards.

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