The minimum wage for Illinois teachers has been stagnant for nearly 40 years, but a bill that passed the state Senate’s education committee on Tuesday would give it a big bump.
The bill would raise the minimum wage to $40,000 annually by the 2023-24 school year, with a phase-in period of four years beginning with a $32,076 minimum in the 2020-21 school year, $34,576 the year after that, and $37,076 in 2022-23 before it hits the $40,000 mark.
The current minimum has not been updated since 1980, when the minimum wage for teachers ranged from $9,000 to $11,000 depending on education level and semester hours worked.
The language of the bill is nearly identical to a measure vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner last year after receiving 37 votes in the Senate and 65 in the House.
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State Sen. Rachelle Aud Crowe, (D-Glen Carbon), is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.
“Illinois’ teacher shortage is a problem I’ve seen firsthand in my district. We need to be encouraging our students to enter the teaching profession, and a great first step would be to pay them appropriately,” Crowe said.
But Sen. Jason Barickman, who along with bill sponsor state Sen. Andy Manar, (D-Bunker Hill), was a lead negotiator of last session’s school funding overhaul, said the new formula is written to drive more money to needier districts, at which point school boards can decide if increased funding is best used for teacher salaries or elsewhere.
“No one has suggested that districts have this money but are unwilling to give it to teachers,” Barickman (R-Streator) said.
He suggested the state incorporate wage increases into the evidence-based funding model rather than setting “arbitrary” standalone minimums.
Manar said the formula does not specifically address teacher wages, and he would have introduced the bill whether or not the evidence-based model passed last session.
“We are simply updating what is current law to meet what would be a reasonable base wage for teachers,” Manar said.
Barickman was one of three Republican Senators to vote against the bill as it passed 14-3. He was joined by Don DeWitte of St. Charles and Chuck Weaver of Peoria.
Weaver said his objections were about local control as well, noting that he was told it would cost one district from his area $750,000 to implement the wage increase, although he declined to name the district after the hearing.
Ja’Neane Minor, director of government relations for Advance Illinois, an education advocacy organization, said she agreed that good teachers “are worth their weight in gold,” but said the state needs to provide “more cushion” to the needier districts for them to be able to handle the rate increases.
Minor said Tier 1 and Tier 2 districts — the state’s neediest — should have longer periods to meet the minimums. She also said while the new formula requires an increase of $350 million in added funding to education each year, the districts need contingencies if that number is not met.
“The new funding formula regionalized what constitutes adequacy based on local cost factors,” she said. “We would like to suggest that any salary minimum reflect the difference in cost in different regions.”
Zach Messersmith of the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance, also opposed the bill, noting teacher pay is an issue for local school boards as well.
Manar said he was open to amending the bill as it progresses in the legislative process and he encouraged future dialogue.
Republican Senators John Curran of Woodridge, Sue Rezin of Morris and Dale Fowler of Harrisburg joined the committee’s 11 Democrats in voting to advance the bill, which is Senate Bill 10.