Teachers in Illinois will be getting a new minimum wage

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday signed legislation that increases a full-time teacher’s minimum salary to $40,000 a year by the 2023-24 school year. The minimum salary will then be tied to inflation in following years. Former Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed similar legislation last year.

“As Illinois children head back to school this week and next, this new law says to them and their parents loud and clear: We value teachers,” Pritzker said. “To teachers all across Illinois: I see the care and compassion you put into your work, and I’m proud to help make sure you earn what you’re worth.”

State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, who is a former teacher, was a lead sponsor on the legislation.

“We have teachers, when they’re not in front of the classroom, they’re working as clerks checking us out at the grocery store, they’re servers at the restaurants, they’re running a business selling cosmetics, or skin care, or you name it, or they’re running other businesses on the side. So they work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m, and then go to a shift at a restaurant from 5 to 10 p.m.,” Stuart said in an interview earlier.

“When do they have time to prepare for the next day? ... We have teachers at starting salaries, it qualifies for food stamps. We need to make sure that we don’t have that. They shouldn’t be wondering ‘how am I going to be paying for my groceries this week?’ They should be wondering ‘how do I make sure Janice understands the math lesson that I’m delivering?’”

Starting next school year, the minimum salary will be $32,076. In 2021-22, the minimum increases to $34,576 a year. In 2022-23, the minimum increases to $37,076. It reaches $40,000 a year in 2023-24.

Any amounts school districts pay toward the state teachers pension fund on behalf of full-time educators will be counted toward the the minimum salary requirement.

In 1980, Illinois set the minimum salary at $9,000 to $11,000 depending on how much education the teacher had completed. Currently the lowest starting salaries for teachers are about $27,000 creating a challenge for school districts to retain teachers, Stuart’s office said.

Having the higher minimum salary is meant to help address a teacher shortage in the state. Last school year there were about 1,400 open teaching positions, Stuart said in a news release.

“Establishing a new minimum salary for teachers will help to fill some of those open positions and shows that Illinois has gotten on the right track to invest in our educators and our education system,” Stuart said.

There is a provision in the new law that calls for the state’s professional review panel to report how the evidence-based funding model needs to be adjusted to meet this new requirement. When the model was put in place, this requirement was not accounted for. The evidence-based funding model was enacted under Rauner in order to help boost state funding for K-12 education.

However, there was some concern about this legislation, especially from legislators representing areas with smaller school districts. He said he is worried some districts won’t be able to afford it.

“It will be another cost to our taxpayers,” Meier said. “I strongly encourage (school districts) to get to that point, we want good teachers and good schools, but it’s just another mandate.”

Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association, said, “This step is critical as we face growing teacher shortages and will allow us to attract and retain the very best teachers for our children. On behalf of 135,000 members of the Illinois Education Association and their students, I thank Gov. Pritzker and the Illinois General Assembly for their leadership.”

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