CHICAGO (CBS) — Even before any offer from the mayor were to kick in, Chicago teachers on average already make more than those in the other largest cities in the country.

Chicago teachers have declared a strike and are set to walk off the job effective at midnight Wednesday night.

As CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reported, we have reported these numbers before, but they bear repeating given the circumstances of the news Wednesday.

The average salary for Chicago teachers is roughly $71,150 per year. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has proposed a 16 percent pay increase over five years that would bring up teachers’ average salary to about $100,000 at the end.

Here is how the teachers’ salary would stack up by comparison when adjusted for cost of living in other large cities. In New York City, the average pay is $61,621, in Philadelphia it is $57,902, in Houston it is $40,480. At this point in negotiations for Chicago teachers, salary does not appear to be a big issue.

It is also important to remember the year 1995. That year, a law transferred power over the Chicago Public Schools to the Mayor’s office, and also limited bargaining.

Legally, Chicago teachers can strike for pay, but not over class size – but how many students are in the classrooms is apparently a sticking point in negotiations.
For an explanation, Gerasole spoke by phone to labor professor Robert Bruno, who said legally, teachers can argue classroom conditions factor into their compensation – a unique argument for a unique law.

“It applies to only one school district in the state, and that’s the city of Chicago,” Bruno said.

So in theory, while salary – no matter how agreeable – is still being discussed, class size can also remain on the table.

Teachers say 1,300 classrooms are over-crowded. At the elementary level, they want student counts to be limited to maximum of 24.

The mayor’s proposal earmarks $1 million to ease these conditions. But the union says that may fund no more than 25 new teachers. That’s how class size and salary are adding up in this dispute.

The issue of class size is not specific to Chicago. In Los Angeles, where teachers make over $69,000 a year, many classroom averages are in the 35 to 38 range and beyond.

That is an issue that has presented itself in teacher labor negotiations there.

Vince Gerasole