If governor gives nod, teachers' salaries will rise $8,000 in 4 years
Raising teachers’ salaries almost $8,000 in four years could be become law if Gov. Bruce Rauner agrees.
Since passing through the Senate Education Committee in May, SB 2892 was introduced during the May 30 House floor debate by sponsor Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago). The bill would progressively raise a full-time teacher's salary over a four-year phase from $32,076 for the 2019-20 school year to $40,000 by the 2022-23 school year.
Though Democrats are implying that low teacher salaries is why Illinois has an educator shortage, Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) said it’s not just about their salary, but rather their entire compensation package.
“If there are 2,000 teacher vacancies, I assure you it is not based on salary,” she said. "It is based on other metrics."
The bill is redundant and unnecessary, according to Ives.
“These teachers are covered by a collective bargaining unit that sets [their] salary schedule to begin with,” she said. “The idea that you [never] had a state-mandated minimum wage for teachers is ridiculous.”
Likening the bill to Groundhog Day, Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) said the legislation already before the House would decimate downstate school districts.
“This is not the way to fix our education issues,” Breen said.
He said lawmakers from Chicago have no business telling districts south of Interstate 80 how to run their school districts.
“We have a school funding mechanism right now, and we need to let that work,” Breen said. “I... urge a no vote on this just like we did a few weeks ago.”
Though Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Hinckley) also noted that the evidence-based funding formula could possibly cover teacher raises, Mitchell refused to move on from Breen.
“While I appreciate the gentleman from DuPage telling me what someone from Cook could or could not do, [the] bottom line [is that] this is actually something that is going to help downstate school districts that are losing teachers to places like St. Louis, where they have a higher minimum salary,” Mitchell said.
Back to Pritchard, Mitchell said that even though the evidence-based funding will assist in compensating higher teacher salaries, the bill sends a message to teachers that they are wanted, which in turn is good for retention.
“Setting a minimum that has not been updated since 1980—since before Michael Jackson released "Thriller" is pretty important to set as a baseline,” Mitchell added.
That is all well and good, according to Pritchard, who asked how to make that happen if a district simply does not have the funds. After Mitchell said you just make it work, Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) said that setting an arbitrary number is not wise, especially due to possible levies.
“The property tax side of this thing is a really delicate issue,” Wheeler said.
Sending an unfunded mandate, especially to his district, is frowned upon, according to Wheeler.
“My friend, I know where you are going with this," Wheeler said. "I just wish we could find another way to do these things that is more market based and balanced out.”
Despite the GOP's concerns, SB 2892 passed 66-47 and will now advance to Rauner's desk for a final decision.