Fair wages and benefits for a predominantly female workforce is a key issue in the CTU fight for a fair contract—in a district that is nearly 80 percent female, yet in a country where full-time working women make 80 cents on the dollar compared to men.

CHICAGO, May 1, 2019—Teaching is an overwhelmingly female profession in Chicago, where nearly 80 percent of all full-time educators are women, according to 2017-2018 Illinois State Report Card data. Yet Chicago Public Schools educators—including thousands of women, many of whom are heads of households—have been furloughed, fee-hiked, forced to work with staff shortages in every area and had their salaries essentially frozen for years.

Today, CPS has stronger economic support, due, in part, to Chicago Teachers Union efforts to advocate for fair funding. It is now time for CPS to invest in the Union’s female-majority workforce: the classroom educators and support staff who are the backbone of Chicago’s public school communities.

“CPS needs to stop shortchanging the people—mostly women—who make our schools work, because when we do that, we shortchange students, parents and school communities,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “More than three-fourths of our district is female, so teaching is ‘women’s work’ in the truest and fairest sense of those words, and we’re done accepting excuses for the continued neglect of their wages and benefits.”

Teachers’ aides, schools clerks and other paraprofessionals—overwhelmingly Black and Latinx women who are the economic anchors of their families and neighborhoods—do not always earn a living wage. It is a troubling reality for many CPS educators, who should have their pay grow alongside their experience and value to their school communities over time, without the burden of escalating insurance costs and wage stagnation cutting into the difference.

By the numbers, working in CPS can be a grim economic endeavor:

  • $45,510 | About 2/3 of PSRPs, a predominantly Black, Latinx and female workforce, earned less than this in 2017-2018—the same amount that makes a family of four eligible for reduced lunch.
  • $2 billion | The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability calculated that CPS schools are underfunded by more than this amount, based on the state’s Evidence-Based Funding model.
  • $55 million | Estimated CPS revenue growth over the next five years due to State funding increases, expected local property tax increases and expiring TIFs.
  • $31,980 | Close to a quarter of CPS PSRPs earned less than this amount in 2017-2018.
  • $37 million | Additional revenue charter schools received from CPS in 2018-2019, an 8 percent increase over what traditional district schools receive per student.

The CTU bargaining team is demanding pay for workers for every year of experience; overtime paid at a regular hourly pay rate; annual cost of living increases that keep pace with inflation and improve workers’ base salaries; paid coaches for sports and extracurricular activities—including coaches for girls’ sports; improved wages for paraprofessionals as well as economic support for their continuing education; and a freeze on health care costs and premiums, which have hammered educators in recent years.

Also, unionized charter school teachers and staff will go on strike at 5 p.m. today in the third CTU strike against charter operators this school year, and the first multi-employer charter strike in U.S. history. These educators earn even less than their CPS counterparts—40 percent or less than what comparable workers earn in CPS-run schools—driving high turnover, which averages 20 percent per year or more at some schools.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.