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Arbiter over CPS pay rejected big-city comparison

Updated: August 7, 2012 9:04PM



A new law required a neutral fact-finder to consider teacher salaries in other big cities before recommending what Chicago Public Schools should pay teachers whose contract expired June 30.

But in making a recommendation that both parties ultimately rejected last month, fact finder Edwin Benn decided that looking at other big cities wasn’t fair.

Benn concluded that there was “no real evidence’’ to show that what he repeatedly called “the Great Recession’’ affected cities across the nation, from New York to Los Angeles, the same way.

In addition, Benn said, doing so might mean unfairly comparing cities whose teacher contracts were settled prior to the economic downturn with those whose contracts were resolved after especially hard times hit.

Benn said he was allowed to weigh “applicable’’ factors and the changing economy no longer made salaries in other big cities “applicable.’’

As a result, Benn used a calculation based on the cost of living and tied largely to the planned nearly 20 percent increase in a CPS teacher’s work day and year to propose a pay hike of nearly 36 percent over four years.

“The law was very explicit in the criteria it required to be used in comparing Chicago’s salary with that of other [big city] districts,’’ said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. “He clearly didn’t follow the law.’’

— Rosalind Rossi



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