“Expenses are up. Revenues are going to be down. It’s going to be a bear.”

Attorney James Franczek,

chief labor negotiator for the Chicago Board of Education

The problem

Irresistible force, meet immovable object: Chicago Teachers Union President Deborah Lynch has promised her members a better deal in their next contract—scheduled to begin July 1, 2003—than the one they got four years ago.

Under current revenue estimates, however, the Chicago Public Schools will take in substantially less money next year than it did this year. Due to state tax caps, property taxes are expected to rise $54 million at most. Meanwhile, the state budget crisis could spell a loss of as much as $335 million.

Lynch says the district should look for administrative fat to trim, but schools CEO Arne Duncan says he’s been there and done that already.

The stakes are high for both Lynch and Duncan. Duncan’s predecessor, Paul Vallas, staked a large chunk of his claim to fame on having brought labor peace to a system that had endured decades of turmoil. Lynch was elected union president in 2001, largely by promising to be tougher on management than her predecessor, Thomas Reece, was. The current talks will be her only chance to bring in a contract victory before she stands for re-election in 2004.

On the plus side, the union and the board took a successful practice run at contract talks last year when they struck a deal that would ease bargaining restrictions imposed by the state legislature in 1995.

Neither side wants a strike. Nor certainly does Duncan’s boss, Mayor Richard M. Daley. And when stakes are high, solutions sometimes appear out of nowhere. As one source quipped, “What I’ve learned about Chicago is that budget magic happens.”

How Chicago fares

Competitive pay: As a K-12 school district in a region dominated by separate K-8 and 9-12 districts, CPS’s salary schedule, which pays elementary and high school teachers the same, is an uneven draw. For beginning elementary teachers, CPS starting pay of $36,232 has virtually no competitors in the six-county metropolitan area. For beginning high school teachers, $36,232 is competitive. Only 29 percent of the area’s high school teaching jobs are in districts whose starting pay is higher than Chicago’s. (Salaries are from 2001-2002.)

However, for veteran elementary teachers, CPS top pay of $65,734 is below average, and for veteran high school teachers it is downright unattractive. Virtually all other high school jobs are in districts whose top pay exceeds Chicago’s.

Keeping up with inflation: From December 1998 to December 2002, the consumer price index rose 9.8 percent. During that period, the increase in pay for CPS teachers with 12 years of experience or less was 9 percent; for those with more than 12, it was 12 percent.


The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability has published analyses of the state budget crisis and possible solutions, including: “Funding a quality education requires fiscal reform.”

The state’s Education Funding Advisory Board has come up with recommendations for changing school finance:

The compromise bill crafted by CPS and the CTU on teacher bargaining rights.

School funding proposals from Network 21, a coalition of education, business and civic organizations.

Proposals to revamp the state’s budget process from Voices for Illinois Children.

A Catalyst profile of Deborah Lynch.

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