Chicago-area teacher salaries: How do they compare?

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In out latest edition of TR3 Trends, we compared Chicago salaries to those of the largest 50 districts.  We received feedback from several of you saying a better comparison would be to look at Chicago's surrounding districts--after all, those districts are Chicago's competition when recruiting new hires.

Finding comparison districts wasn't easy; there are over 300 districts in the Chicago area.  We ended up looking at salaries in districts with over 10,000 students (according to 2010-11 National Center for Education Statistics data) that are located in Cook County, Illinois along with Chicago.  In this analysis, all numbers include pension contributions.   Out of the six salary schedules we examined, four included pension contributions as a part of salary; in the others, we've added them in.  

Here's what we found:

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*Note: Salaries for all districts include pension contributions.  Four of the six districts we looked at automatically include these payments in their salary schedule calculations.  Pension contributions are not generally included in our database as a part of salary, so Chicago's numbers are slightly larger than the salary amounts in the TR3 database to make them comparable to surrounding districts.

For school year 2011-12, Chicago's starting salary (including pension contributions) for new teachers with bachelor's degrees is a bit above the other Cook County districts with more than 10,000 students.  It was $52,600, while starting salaries for teachers with BAs in the comparison districts ranged from $39,477 to $50,100.

When we looked at the maximum salaries teachers in Chicago could earn last year, that number--$99,753--was slightly below  those of the surrounding districts, whose maximum salaries ranged from $100,270 to $120,749. 

With the 3% cost-of-living increase expected for Chicago teachers this school year, the picture will likely remain largely the same.  The one exception is Chicago teachers at the top of the salary scale--those with 14 or more years experience.  Under the tentative agreement framework, these teachers will see their pay increase more, which may align the higher end of Chicago's salary schedule with nearby districts. 

Even though Chicago's top salary levels aren't the highest in the area, we believe the money spent to increase the last three steps could be better used.  They would get more bang for their buck by creating retention incentives for teachers who are at points in their careers when they are likely to leave or rewarding teachers who are shown to be highly effective. 

-- Ginger Moored