Teacher salaries are only "a piece" of the puzzle when it comes to attracting and retaining good teachers, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday, defending Chicago's decision to pay competitive salaries to start, but fall far short for veteran teachers.
"It's not only the pay but it's also the quality that goes into education...Compensation is a piece of it. So is what you do a piece of it... One of the reasons we've been working togther on the core curriculum is to raise the standards and the type of education that's going on," Emanuel said.
"Investing in education--making sure we're making it an interesting education experience for the students as well as for the quality of education, the time that's in it, the curriculum that's in it, hearing their voices about how they're focused on making sure that what we're teaching is not just for the test, but for the education---that all adds to the experience."
Emanuel noted that Chicago is not alone when it comes to the problem of attracting and retaining good teachers.
"Every city faces this. About 50 percent of the teachers within the first two years leave the cities for the suburbs," the mayor said.
"Which is why I expanded the AUSL teaching academies. Those teachers commit to staying in the public school system for five years. I wanted to build up a teacher core that was here committed to an urban education and to our student body."
He added, "It's not Chicago vs Cairo, Illinois. The way we get compared is Chicago vs. the other big cities...That's how we evaluate what we do."
A Chicago Sun-Times analysis of teacher pay schedules in close to 900 Illinois school districts includes warning signs for the financially-strapped Chicago Public Schools still negotiating a new teachers contract.
The city starts out strong for beginning teachers with a $50,577 salary for those with a bachelor's degree. That's high enough to be ranked No. 16 statewide.
But, the annual salary for rookie teachers with a master's degree ranks No. 30 statewide. Chicago's top salary for a veteran with a master's degree drops to No. 140. And Chicago teachers max out at $95,887-a-year, No. 167 statewide.
One expert warned that the "front-loading" of teacher salaries in Chicago Public Schools threatens to turn Chicago into a "farm system" for districts that pay more over the long run, some of them right over the city line.