State Senate approves own version of bill to raise teacher pay

 
By Grant Morgan
Capitol News Illinois
gmorgan@capitolnewsillinois.com
Updated 4/11/2019 4:31 PM
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SPRINGFIELD -- A second bill raising the minimum annual salary for Illinois teachers to $40,000 found legislative success this week.

Senate Bill 10, sponsored by Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, passed on a 45-11 vote Thursday afternoon.

It would provide a five-year ramp to increasing Illinois' minimum teacher salary, from just more than $32,000 in 2020-21 to $40,000 in the 2023-24 school year.

The substance of the bill is the same as a House bill -- HB 2078, sponsored by Rep. Katie Stuart, an Edwardsville Democrat -- that passed earlier in the week.

But Manar's bill was approved with an amendment that directs a state review panel to figure out how Illinois' most underfunded school districts can get extra state aid to comply with the minimum salary law.

Manar said the state's school funding formula must be "slightly adjusted" to make up the difference for the cost of the bill, so underfunded districts could pay the minimum salaries.

He said initial estimates are that "just under" $20 million would have to be added to the funding formula to help the neediest school districts comply.

According to SB 10's amendment, the Professional Review Panel's recommendations must be made by Jan. 31, 2020.

Manar said an ideal timeline is that the recommendations are adopted in time for the governor's budget proposal in February 2020.

When that budget passes in May 2020, Manar said, the school funding formula will have already kicked out the extra money to underfunded school districts, in time for the start of the school year's classes in August and September.

"We want to have a more level entry point for teachers across the state," Manar said. "Depending on where you teach, where you live, and which districts have openings, your entry level salary can fluctuate dramatically.

"A base rate would help reassure college students that when they graduate, they'll have a decent wage."

Opponents of SB 10 voiced concerns similar to criticism of the bill's House counterpart.

"This is a significant unfunded mandate," said GOP Sen. Chuck Weaver of Peoria. "School districts will be forced to lay people off."

Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, emphasized that the salary increase to $40,000 would not be immediate but phased in over four years -- and still might not be enough.

"A $40,000 starting salary for a teacher is not a lot of money," she said Thursday. "Yet it would allow them the decency and respect to raise up our generations to come."

The state's current minimum teacher salary of $10,000 has been unchanged since the 1980s.

Manar said the first salary increase of SB 10 -- to just more than $32,000 for the 2020-21 school year -- is simply that same $10,000 salary adjusted for inflation to the present day.

The teacher salary bills now are headed to the opposite chambers for consideration.

Manar said he talks daily with Stuart, the House bill's sponsor, about the legislation.

"I think they both have a very good chance of passing," he said. "We're going to get a bill to the governor's desk, I'm confident in that, and it will be one he can sign into law."

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