Illinois teachers get new minimum base salary

By Michael Urbanec

Grand Ridge sixth-grade teacher Elizabeth Bernardoni teaches Language Arts to her class in August 2018. New legislation sets the salary floor at $40,000 for public schools — a number districts must meet by the 2023-24 school year.

A new minimum salary for Illinois teachers passed through the House and Senate around the same time lawmakers worked on recreational marijuana legalization and a gambling expansion.

The bill is aimed at addressing the state’s teacher shortage.

The new legislation sets the salary floor at $40,000 for public schools — a number districts must meet by the 2023-24 school year.

“The impact on our districts will vary,” said Regional Superintendent Chris Dvorak, whose region oversees La Salle, Marshall and Putnam counties. “Some districts are already meeting the threshold or they’re on pace to be above it within the next five years.”

The first bill raises the minimum wage for teachers to $40,000 by the 2023-24 school year. The wage increase would be phased in, starting with a $32,076 minimum in the 2020-21 school year, $34,576 the year after that, and $37,076 in 2022-23. After 2024, the minimum wage will increase with the consumer price index each year.

The legislation also includes Illinois’ Teacher Retirement System (TRS) in the minimum salary, so even though some area schools have new teachers who aren’t at the new minimum of $32,076 in 2020-21, they may meet the criteria regardless.

Streator Elementary Superintendent Lisa Parker said the district will address the new minimum salary when the time comes, but they’re already close to the 2020 minimum a year early.

“We will address the minimum salary during our next teacher’s negotiation,” Parker said. “Currently, our teachers are set to make $34,501.80 as a starting salary for 2019-20. We do not have salaries following that year negotiated.”

Illinois’ minimum salary for teachers before this bill passed was $10,000, a number that was set in the early 80s and has remained unchanged until now.

The cap on teacher pay raises has also been raised from 3% to 6% per the bill, allowing teachers to garner larger raises each year.

Illinois has the 10th highest average of teacher pay in the country but still faces a teacher shortage as college graduates leave the state for greener (and warmer) pastures.

The $66,778 average also includes cities like Chicago and the St. Louis suburbs where the cost of living is much higher than the central part of the state and the number also doesn’t account for tenure.

Area schools already meet the new minimum base salary for teachers and the ones that don’t already have plans in place to meet them by the beginning of the next school year.

The bill also directs a professional review panel – established as part of an education funding overhaul in the previous General Assembly – to report on how the evidence-based funding model will be affected by the increased costs incurred by districts as part of the minimum wage increase. Manar said the panel will look for ways the state can “bridge the gap” on increased costs for those districts.

Senator Jason Barickman, a Bloomington Republican who helped advance the evidence-based model, whose district includes Livingston County, said he thought the added expense to districts could affect the model and cause districts that cannot afford the wages to raise property taxes. He voted against the measure.

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