Updated 06/12/12 - 7:24 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) -- A day after Chicago Public Schools' teachers overwhelmingly authorized a strike, CBS 2 wanted to know how much the average teacher earns.
As CBS 2's Dana Kozlov found out, it depends on who you ask.
Salary figures provided by the Chicago Public Schools show teachers here have the highest average salary of any city in the nation. But, according to the Chicago Teachers Union's calculations, Chicago teachers would rank second behind New York City.
During a vote taken last week, 90 percent of the city's public school teachers voted to authorize a walkout, if no contract compromise is reached.
A top sticking point? Pay increases to compensate teachers for working a longer school day. But just how do teachers' salaries here compare to teachers' salaries across the country?
A Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said average pay for teachers, without benefits, is $76,000.
But a Teachers Union attorney said the number provided by CPS doesn't tell the whole story.
"When you're looking at compensation, it's not enough just to look at salary, because Chicago Public Schools teachers have to pay more for their insurance, and they get less of a contribution from the employer for their pension than in other cities," CTU attorney Robert Bloch said.
Bloch said per-pupil pay is lower in Chicago than in many cities, too. He said those factors need to be taken into consideration, by both CPS and the public.
"Working conditions are part of everyone's job, we all think about working conditions," he said.
Block said the average salary for CTU teachers is actually lower than what CPS claims, by about $5,000. It's a disparity neither side could explain.
By comparison, teachers in New York City earn an average of $73,751. That would be less than the average $76,000 average salary for Chicago teachers cited by CPS, but more than the $71,000 average cited by the union. Depending on which is accurate, Chicago would either be first or second in the nation in average teacher salary. However, Los Angeles teachers make $67,600. The number drops to about $54,000 in Dallas, and just over $52,000 in Miami.
Regardless of where Chicago teachers currently rank in salary, Civic Federation president Laurenence Msall said there's one big roadblock to a big raise for teachers.
"It's math. It's not really politics, as much as it gets caught up in politics. The financial situation of the Chicago Public Schools is dire. The situation of the State of Illinois – that provides significant funding to the Chicago Public Schools – is dire," he said. "The property tax payers in Chicago are beleaguered. They're seeing a drop in their property values, and to be asking them to pay increased property taxes, so we can fund increased salaries for employees is something that's gonna be a very tough political sell."
Msall said there' simply not enough money to support a significant pay hike for the teachers.
"The only way that they will find money to increase some teachers' salary, is we're going to have to reduce the number of teachers, and the number of employees in Chicago Public Schools," Msall said. "There just is no other way to get around it."
The only other possibility would be imposing a property tax hike.
Union officials said they understand the current financial constraints but asked how CPS can possibly pay for a longer school day.
You can bet all of that will be hashed out - again - after an independent arbitrator issues its report on a possible contract compromise next month.
for more features.