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We didn’t settle our October 2019 strike until landing an agreement for $25 million in additional pay for members with more years of experience, and it’s been a long time coming! Chicago Public Schools management dragged its feet until May of this year before agreeing on how to add this veteran pay to the salary tables, then took months more to finally confirm the accuracy of updated salary tables.

CPS finally rolled out payments this summer, and we know members have concerns and questions about what they were paid. The purpose of this communication is to help members understand what they were owed and to help members determine if they think they had errors in pay and, if they do, what next steps they can take.

Who receives payment

Two new steps were added to the teacher salary schedules, and a new one-time veteran payment of $2,100 will be provided upon the 30th year of service eligible for step credit.

The new steps were added at the 17th ($970) and 23rd ($550) year of teaching. Because our salary schedules ensure no teachers leapfrog over another teacher with more experience, teachers who had already hit their 17th year but not yet hit their 20th (previously existing step), and teachers that had already hit their 23rd year but not yet hit their 25th year (previously existing step), will also see increases. The addition of these steps finally fulfills the promise won in our strike—to dedicate an additional $25 million to our veteran teachers during the life of the new contract.

If you reached either of these steps during the 2019-2020 school year, or were on any of the in-between steps referenced above, you should have received a retro check covering the difference over the time you were on that step.

The addition of the two steps bumps the scale, even if you don’t hit a step for a year or more during the course of this agreement. This means that we add value to the scale every year of the agreement, and no one is being leapfrogged by anyone below them on the salary schedule. Because of the two new steps at years 17 and 23, the pay scales for teachers with 18 years or more creditable experience will also see an increase in the pay scale each year.

We have also received written confirmation from the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund that the 30th year veteran payment is pensionable.

Where did the $25 million go?

The veteran pay agreement affects roughly 9,700 CTU members at or above Step 14. The $25 million is being spent with $21 million on the cost of adding two steps into the salary schedule, and $4 million on the cost of the 30th year veteran payment.

This is how the total cost breaks down annually:

FY20 FY21 FY22 FY23 FY24 Total Five-Year Cost
$3.1M $4.4M $5.2M $5.9M $6.6M $25.0M

How we got here

Remember, CPS doesn’t operate without the mayor’s direction. The mayor and the district did not want steps at all. The mayor promised them during the strike and in the final hours of negotiation, and then reneged. And following her refusal to uphold the agreement, the Union filed an unfair labor practice charge

We now have two more steps in our salary scale to defend (like the others, for perpetuity). This lifts the entire end of the scale for ALL veteran teachers.Thirty-year veterans receive an especially large bump—not as a step—as a pensionable payment.

We know this has been a long and frustrating process. If we signed the checks, this would have been resolved by now. But CPS signs the checks, and as we all know, CPS could mess up a one-car funeral. But this agreement represents precedent-setting progress in adding new steps for experienced educators.

There have only been two steps added to our collective bargaining agreement since 1980. Last  year we won two more. This is something we can build on in the future. We should be proud of our accomplishments. We have been without step increases for 40 years. Now we have them.

By the end of the contract, every full-time teacher with at least 20 years experience will be making at least $100,000 a year. We lose colleagues to other districts because they don’t climb the pay scales. This is a significant step for retaining experienced and qualified educators in our district.

How the pay should have been dispersed

All teachers who meet the longevity payment eligibility criteria for 30 or more years of experience should have received a FY20 $2,100 longevity payment by July 31, 2020. (The additional longevity pay at year 30 is
not reflected in the salary tables because that is a payment that does not add into base salary. Contract language on longevity pay will be reflected in the final version of Appendix A.)

All veteran teachers at or above Step 14, and with 17 years or more of experience, should have received retroactive payments so that their salaries correspond to the salary schedules. Teachers receiving these salary adjustments were grouped into two phases: Phase One and Phase Two. CPS sent notification of your group on July 24. CPS arbitrarily created these groupings for the facilitation of the payments across the large number of teachers receiving additional pay; they do not correspond to placement on the salary schedules.

Phase One teachers should have received step changes covering July 5-18 on July 31. On August 14, they should have received the rest of their retro payment for their step change back to July 1, 2019.

Phase Two teachers should have received step changes covering July 19-August 1 on August 14. On August 28, they should have received the rest of their retro payment for their step change back to July 1, 2019.

A few scenarios

It’s difficult to imagine a scenario for every member this affects, but we are providing some examples that might help. The fact that CPS uses a confusing system for naming the steps doesn’t help matters. Pay rates can be complicated for a variety of reasons, such as anniversary dates or the way CPS credits service from outside systems. Having been on an unpaid leave or working as a substitute and/or cadre will impact step anniversary and retro/veteran pay calculation.

Ultimately, the responsibility for paying our members lies with the Board, and if you suspect that you are being paid incorrectly, the Union will file a grievance.

A teacher who hits the new step at year 17

A teacher on Lane 2 who reached their 17th year of teaching on July 1st, 2019 (old step 14d, new step 15a), had an annual rate of $91,196 after the contract resolution, but prior to the veteran pay resolution.

The veteran pay resolution created a $970 step at year 17. This teacher’s new annual rate for the FY20 is $92,166.

Since this teacher worked the entire year as a step 15a teacher, the difference between their annualized rates is $970.

If this teacher had reached their 17th year of teaching half-way into the school year, the difference between their annualized rates would be the same, but it would only be applied to retro payments for half the year.

A teacher who is at year 19 after the new step at year 17

A teacher on Lane 2 who reached their 19th year of teaching on July 1st, 2019 (old step 14f, new step 15c), had an annual rate of $91,958 after the contract resolution, but prior to the veteran pay resolution.

The veteran pay resolution created a $970 step at year 17 (new step 15a). The new annual rate for the FY20 is $92,166. Since the salary for a teacher at year 17 cannot be higher than a salary for a teacher at year 19, the year 19 salary (old step 14f, new step 15c) is also adjusted to $92,166.

Since this teacher worked the entire year as a step 15c teacher, the difference between their annualized rates is $208.

A teacher who hits the new step at year 23

A teacher on Lane 2 that reached their 23rd year of teaching on July 1st, 2019 (old step 15d, new step 17a), had an annual rate of $95,029 after the contract resolution, but prior to the veteran pay resolution.

The veteran pay resolution created a $550 step at year 23. The new annual rate for the FY20 year is $95,579.

Since this teacher worked the entire year as a step 17a teacher, the difference between their annualized rates is $550.

A teacher who is at year 24 after the new step at year 23

A teacher on Lane 2 that reached their 24th year of teaching on July 1st, 2019 (old step 15e, new step 17b), had an annual rate of $95,029 after the contract resolution, but prior to the veteran pay resolution.

How to approximate your retro pay

Here are some steps that may help you figure out how much (if any) retroactive veteran pay you should have received. First, you have to identify what step you are being paid on.

  1. To calculate your old pay: Multiply your bi-weekly rate (from a check stub from the end of last school year 2019-2020) by 20.8 to get your annual salary.
  2. Look up that salary on the salary schedules used for the vote (from before the veteran pay was settled, available here: https://www.ctulocal1.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/TeacherTablesforCTUvote2019-web.pdf). This will confirm your old step with number and letter and years of service.
  3. Look up on the new salary table including veteran pay that corresponds with that same step and years of service. That is your new salary. In some but not most cases, the salaries will be the same because there was no leapfrogging.
  4. To get a rough estimate of the retroactive pay that you should have received, subtract the old salary from the new salary. The difference should be nearly what you received for 208 days of retroactive pay. Remember, we made up five of the strike days from last school year, but the mayor would not agree to make up the other six strike days. So your retroactive veteran pay for 2019-20 will not entirely equal the difference between your old and new salary. Your approximate retroactive pay should be the difference in salary, minus the daily differential for six work days.

The veteran pay resolution created a $550 step at year 23. The new annual rate for a 23rd year teacher (new step 17a) is $95,579 for FY20. Since the salary for a teacher at year 23 (new step 17a) cannot be higher than a salary for a teacher at year 24 (new step 17b), the new annual rate for a teacher at year 24 (new step 17b) is also adjusted upwards to $95,579.

Since this teacher worked the entire year as a step 17b teacher, the difference between their annualized rates is $550.

Next steps

Poor communication and past errors have left many feeling confused and distrustful toward CPS. CTU leadership is currently pushing the district to include step, lane and anniversary date on all paycheck stubs (which the district said it would do during the strike) to make it easier for members to understand where their pay stands. CTU staff have begun filing grievances for members who have clear payroll errors and the Union is in contact with top CPS officials as we review cases and track the implementation of raises for our veteran educators.

What you can do:

If you believe that CPS has made an error in your retro pay or new salary rate, you can:

  1. Use the resources above and reference your actual received payments and anniversary date to help determine if CPS has made errors on your pay.
  2. If you do appear to have specific errors in your veteran pay increase or back pay, contact the CTU field representative for your school. They will collect the information about your situation and, in coordination with others across the Union dealing with this issue, help determine next steps to win any and all payment owed.

Please note that a mix of individual grievances, jointly filed complaints and district-wide discussions with CPS management are all being utilized to help pressure the Board to quickly correct payroll errors.