Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Karen Lewis Defends Six-Figure Salary: 'I'm Not Going to Apologize For It'

The fiery Chicago Teachers Union boss affirms she's "solidly middle class"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    8/13/2014: Karen Lewis answers questions about her over $200 thousand dollar a year income and real estate holdings. NBC 5's Mary Ann Ahern reports. (Published Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014)

    Chicago Teachers Union boss Karen Lewis is defending her six-figure salary and three homes -- one of which is in Hawaii -- as "solidly middle class."

    The Sun-Times reports that Lewis, who frequently busts Mayor Rahm Emanuel for hanging out with rich people like himself, commands a combined salary of $201,047 for her CTU position as well as her union gig as executive vice president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. (Emanuel, meanwhile, earns $216,200. But he's got millions in his bank account.)

    According to the paper, Lewis and her retired teacher husband own a Hawaiian condo, which they bought several years ago for $240,000, in addition to their home in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood, purchased in 2007 for $405,000. She and her sister share ownership of a vacation property in Union Pier, Mich., priced at $305,000.

    "I don’t live extravagantly. But if you look just at the numbers, then, absolutely, I am in the 5 percent," she tells the paper. “We are comfortable. We are not poor. We have never been poor. Does that mean I don’t have the pulse of (the poor)? I don’t live in luxury. I don’t hang out with wealthy people. I have always been solidly middle class. You cannot put me in the same class with Rahm Emanuel or Bruce Rauner."

    (Good point. You can't accuse Karen of collecting nine homes that include a gazillion-acre ranch in Big Sky Country.)

    As for her CTU salary -- she makes a base of $136,890 -- Lewis makes no apologies. Lewis' previous vow not to earn more than Chicago's highest-paid teacher relates to the school year, not her 24-7 full-time post, she explains.

    "I’m not going to apologize for it. I don’t think that’s wrong," she asserts. "I did what we are told to do. You are supposed to go to school, become educated. I have an Ivy League diploma. I have two master’s degrees. I’m a board-certified teacher.”

    Those are also solid credentials for a possible third job at City Hall.