Healthy teachers calling in sick still a problem, though CPS got a key fact wrong

The real rate of increase in teachers calling in sick wasn’t 150%, but a considerably more modest 27%, CPS now tells us.

SHARE Healthy teachers calling in sick still a problem, though CPS got a key fact wrong
Thousands of striking Chicago Teachers Union and their supporters march at City Hall on Oct. 23.

Chicago Teachers Union members and their supporters march at City Hall on Oct. 23 during the strike.

AP Photos

In Wednesday’s paper, we chastised Chicago’s teachers for calling in sick when they are not sick.

As proof of the problem, we cited a statistic provided to us by the Chicago Public Schools: 150%.

That is the percentage increase, CPS told us, in the number of times teachers have called in sick since 2012, which is when a new rule went into effect prohibiting them from saving up most of their sick days and putting them toward an earlier retirement. The teachers, clearly, had been using the days rather than losing them.

Except they are not. At least not 150% more often.

Editorials bug


In the wake of our editorial, CPS informed us that they had made a mistake. They had “accidentally miscalculated.”

The real rate of increase, CPS now tells us, was not 150%, but a considerably more modest 27%.

What are we to make of this?

The fact remains that Chicago’s teachers, as a group, treat sick days like personal days — and that has to stop. Even the 27% increase reflects poorly on the teachers.

CPS also provided additional information that underscores the problem is very real. Since 2011, CPS has seen a 58% increase in “teacher absences” — sick days, personal business days and religious holidays. That works out to 3.5 additional days off per teacher, from 6 days to 9.5.

If perfectly healthy teachers calling in sick were not a problem, CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union would not have tried to fix it in the tentative new union contract. Teachers now will be allowed to accumulate as many as 244 sick days, which they can put toward an earlier retirement with a full pension.

The intent of the policy change is to give teachers who are not sick a greater incentive not to call in sick.

All the same, we think CPS owes the teachers an apology for putting out the inflated number. A 27% increase in teachers calling in sick is not nearly as bad as a 150% increase.

We owe the teachers an apology, too, for writing an editorial premised on the larger, inaccurate number. We were misinformed by CPS, but no matter. It’s still on us.

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