CHICAGO – No wonder Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner wants the state to take over Chicago Public Schools.

Any way you slice it, the school district is a financial mess, with its most recent budget deficit estimated at a mind-numbing $480 million.

It’s well documented that retirement costs are a big part of the problem in the district. In fiscal 2015, CPS contributed an incredible $676 million to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.

But retirees are not the only ones draining the district of its financial resources. Thousands of current employees make top dollar, at least by public education standards, and it seems obvious that the district can no longer sustain such high salaries.

In 2014-15, CPS paid 15,029 employees more than $100,000 in combined salary and benefits, which totaled a staggering $1.3 billion in salary and $1.7 billion in total compensation.

Benefits were a big part of that cost. Every employee on that list received an annual package ranging in value between $63,276 and $19,696. The total cost of benefits for the 15,029 was $450 million.

There were 1,599 employees who made at least $100,000 in straight salary. Their combined salaries totaled $192 million. Their combined benefits came to $58.5 million. Their combined total compensation came to $250 million.

Three employees made at least $200,000 in total compensation while 81 made at least $150,000.

As in most school districts, the top salaries were dedicated to a top-heavy administration. There were 38 employees with the word “chief” in their titles who made at least $150,000 in straight salary.

The highest paid were the chief executive officer ($313,276 in total compensation), chief education officer ($248,570), chief administrative officer ($246,591), chief internal auditor ($241,741), chief financial officer ($228,404), chief teaching and learning officer ($224,118), chief of school strategy and planning ($224,118), chief officer of networks ($224,118), chief of staff to the CEO ($222,342) and the chief of college and career success ($222,342).

There were also 12 employees with the title “chief of schools,” and each was compensated $194,936.

Several groups of non-chiefs also made out very well.

For instance, there were 524 principals who made a combined $69.6 million in straight salary and $20.8 million in benefits, for a total of $90.4 million.

There were 610 assistant principals who made a combined $67.8 million in straight salary and $21.3 million in benefits, for a total of $89.1 million.

That’s an awful lot of school officials making an awful lot of money.

So what is the overall record of student learning and achievement in the Chicago district? Absolutely awful.

“Four out of ten CPS freshmen don’t graduate,” reported HuffingtonPost.com in 2014. “Ninety-one percent of CPS graduates must take remedial courses in college because they do not know how to do basic math and other schoolwork. Only 26 percent of CPS high school students are college-ready, according to results from ACT subject-matter tests.

“Education should be the great equalizer; but in Chicago, public education is more of a holding cell than a launch pad.”

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