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September 21, 2012
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Chicago teachers' deal sweet compared to local package

EAGLE - Chicago teachers are paid more and work less than local teachers, according to a comparison of the two school districts' pay packages.

Almost 30,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union went back to work this week after a 10-day strike.

Chicago teachers were battling contract proposals that local teachers have been handling for almost a decade, including teacher evaluations based on student performance, job security, salary and benefits.

Two of those three - teacher evaluations and job security - were part of a tax increase package Eagle County voters approved almost a decade ago.

Tanya Caruso, head of the Eagle County Education Association, the local teachers union, said comparing the local schools with urban Chicago is problematic, but there are some parallels.

Eagle County's teacher evaluation system is based on a school building's overall performance and is not tied directly to the individual teacher, which seems to be Chicago's plan, Caruso said., a reading specialist at Avon Elementary School.

"Almost every Chicago teacher is a union member," Caruso said.

This is how Chicago's teacher contract compares to Eagle County's teacher package.

Salary and benefits

Chicago: With an average salary of $76,000, Chicago teachers are among the highest-paid in the nation, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. A starting Chicago teachers' salary will be $49,200. Chicago teachers can top out at $86,200. The new Chicago teacher contract provides a 17 percent raise over four years.

Eagle County: Local teachers start at $36,550 per year. The Eagle County school district's highest paid teacher will earn $66,619, according to school district data. Last year local school district employees agreed to unpaid time off, amounting to a 1.5 percent pay cut. The school board carried that pay cut over to next year.

"It's been about four years since anyone has had a raise," Caruso said.

The only way to get a salary increase is to move into a different job with a higher pay grade, Caruso said.

Teacher Evaluations

Chicago: The Chicago Teachers Union opposed a new teacher evaluation system based on students' standardized test scores. That system will be phased in gradually and will include an appeal process for contested evaluations. By the new contract's third year, student test scores would account for 30 percent of a teacher's evaluation.

Eagle County: The local teachers union agreed to a performance pay program and evaluation system, implemented in 2001 after Eagle County voters approved a tax increase to fund teacher raises, among other things. Employees who don't make the measurements are not rehired. The performance bonuses are paid annually in August. This year, Eagle County school district employees were eligible for up to 4 percent of their annual salaries. This year the school district paid $649,000 in performance pay bonuses, down from $767,000 last year.

Length of school day

Chicago: The new contract lengthens the school day to seven hours, from less than six hours, one of the shortest in the country, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. Additional teachers will be hired to cover the extra time.

Eagle County: The standard school is seven hours for students. Teachers work an eight hour day, according to the Eagle County school district.

Job Security

Chicago: Schools will hire laid-off teachers who are evaluated to be proficient or excellent to fill half of any job openings.

Eagle County: In Eagle County teachers can reapply if their jobs were cut, but they don't have first crack at job openings. Budget cuts impacted more than 90 local school district jobs, according to 2012-13 budget data. The school board largely eliminated tenure, the system that locks in pay raises based on seniority, and makes it almost impossible to fire veteran teachers. However, most of the teachers fired in last year's budget cuts were in their first or second year, said Brian Childress, the Eagle County school district's human resources director.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Sep 21, 2012 01:48PM Published Sep 21, 2012 01:43PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.