Chicago City Wire

Chicago City Wire

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Wirepoints: Why no discussion of CTU pension debt in strike negotiations?


By Karen Kidd | Oct 31, 2019

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As the Chicago Teachers Union and the city finalize an agreement – maybe – to end this month's strike, an online news outlet wants to know why teacher pension debt hasn't come up during negotiations.

"After all, it's pensions that are primarily threatening the solvency of both the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools," Wirepoints said in a recent article by the website's president Ted Dabrowski and staff member John Klinger.

Pensions and other benefits amount to 25 percent of CPS' budget and much of Chicago teachers' overall compensation, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's proposal to raise the average teacher's salary by 24 percent will add to the debt, the article said.

Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski | Photo courtesy of Wirepoints

"The average retired CPS teacher already receives a pension of nearly $55,000 a year, according to a 2019 FOIA request to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund," the article said. "However, looking at the pension of an average teacher far understates the true size of CPS pensions. The 'average' benefit includes teachers who only worked a few years for CPS, which brings down the average."

Chicago classrooms are expected to remain closed Thursday despite a tentative deal reached between the city and CTU delegates. One sticking point has been whether school days lost to the strike will have to be made up but Lightfoot has signaled she is willing to compromise on that point while CTU President Jesse Sharkey also has indicated the strike shouldn't go on indefinitely.

Reports about the strike make no mention of pension debt coming up during negotiations.

"Nobody is on the side of ordinary Chicagoans when it comes to the teachers strike," the Wirepoints article said. "No matter who 'wins,' ordinary Chicagoans are going to lose big."

It is bad news for the city, according to the article.

"In a burdensome city like Chicago, that’s a big deal," the article said. "Another unaffordable contract that costs hundreds of millions, if not billions, more will only exacerbate Chicagoans’ pain and drive more of them out of the city. That will leave a larger bill for those who remain, creating a perpetual spiral of higher taxes and more out-migration."

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