Chicago teachers’ salaries are relatively high by historical measures, but not unprecedented; the minimum and maximum salaries have been higher in the past, adjusting for inflation.
They’ve also been lower. By real wage terms, teachers made considerably less money in the 1980s, because previously high salaries not only stagnated, they didn’t remotely keep pace with inflation. (Which happened elsewhere; a 1987 paper in the Economics of Education Review found that starting teacher salaries in Michigan declined 20 percent from 1970 to 1980 when expressed in 1970 dollars [PDF]). And it was also the 1980s when the Chicago Public Schools’ reputation hit bottom; in 1987, Education Secretary William Bennett famously declared them the worst in the nation, a statement it’s taken CPS years to shake.
Whet Moser’s research and adjustments for inflation for every era is simply great, valuable journalism.