$25K spread in average teacher pay

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Teachers with the most and least experience are unevenly distributed across Chicago’s public schools, according to a Catalyst Chicago analysis of school-level budgets and teacher salary data.

Schools that employ more teachers at the low end of the pay scale tend to be those with high poverty rates or predominantly black or Latino enrollments. Schools that serve students who are not ready for 9th grade, are most likely to be staffed by newer teachers.

Almost all of the teachers at Crane Achievement Academy have less than five years experience, and only four of 15 are veterans, notes Director Ingrid Jackson.

More experienced teachers are concentrated at schools that are mostly white, have poverty rates lower than 50 percent or serve gifted students. Schools that serve only special education students tend to be staffed by more veterans, too.

All told, the analysis shows average teacher salaries range this year from a high of $69,600 at Montefiore Special School to a low of $43,700 at Infinity Math and Science Academy.

Upwards of 70 percent of teachers at Montefiore have 10 years or more experience, says Assistant Principal Carmelita Austin Berry. Another reason the school’s average teacher salary is so high is its year-round schedule, which entitles teachers to more money. At the other end, Infinity is one of four small schools that opened this fall in the new Little Village high school complex.

Viewed from an equity perspective, these findings are cause for concern because teacher salaries “constitute the bulk of spending” in school districts, says budget expert Marguerite Roza. “We’re putting money into certain teachers and it’s following them to high-performing schools. We should realize that there are other uses for those dollars, [like] closing the achievement gap.”

Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart says the findings, particularly those related to high-poverty schools, come as no surprise. “These are less stable communities, so newer teachers are coming there,” she says. “In more stable communities, teachers stay on for 20 to 30 years.”

Schools with the lowest average teacher salaries tend to be new schools, says CPS spokeman Mike Vaughn, who notes the district’s own analysis of teacher salaries produced similar results. Achievement academies “have an additional recruiting challenge because it’s hard to find teachers to teach children who are clearly behind,” he says.

Still, CPS finds nothing wrong with the current distribution of teacher experience. “I’m not convinced that a staff of entirely experienced teachers is better than a staff of mostly young teachers,” Vaughn says, though a diversity of staff experience at schools is preferable.