Teachers rip Rauner for vetoing minimum salary

Gov. Rauner vetoed a bill that would have hiked the Illinois minimum teacher salary to $40,000

 Gov. Rauner praised teachers even as he vetoed a bill to give them a $40,000 minimum salary. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Gov. Rauner praised teachers even as he vetoed a bill to give them a $40,000 minimum salary. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Gov. Rauner is getting a failing grade from teachers and legislators after vetoing a bill that would have set the state's minimum teacher salary at $40,000.

Rauner announced the veto Sunday night and praised teachers even as he quashed a raise in their base pay.

"Teachers are our greatest asset in ensuring the future of our youth, and they deserve to be well-compensated for their hard work," Rauner said in a statement. "However, minimum-pay legislation is neither the most efficient nor the most effective way to compensate our teachers."

Rauner took issue with how Illinois is one of 17 states to set uniform salary schedules to guarantee basic pay and try to level the playing field in education, saying, "This approach to teacher compensation both limits a school district’s local control and imposes a significant unfunded mandate on school districts."

The bill would have set the state minimum teacher salary at just over $32,000 this year and would raise it to $40,000 within four years.

State Sen. Andy Manar, of Bunker Hill, sponsor of what was known as Senate Bill 2982, pointed out that the state's minimum teacher salary has been set at $10,000 since 1980. He said if that base pay had kept pace with inflation it would be $32,000 today and would help alleviate a teacher shortage.

"Refusing to guarantee professional educators a livable minimum wage is no way to lure more teachers to Illinois,” Manar said. “I’m disappointed in the governor’s veto, and I know thousands of dedicated, hard-working, creative educators throughout the state are, too."

Manar, who also sponsored the overhaul in the state's education funding formula last year, pledged to work to override the veto.

"We are extremely disappointed but not surprised Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed Sen. Manar’s $40,000 minimum-salary bill," said Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association. "The governor repeatedly says he’s a friend of education, but his actions tell us otherwise."

According to Griffin, setting the $40,000 minimum salary statewide "would have been the best way to combat the teacher shortage in Illinois. Studies show the most effective way to alleviate a teacher shortage crisis is through respect and adequate wages.

“By vetoing this bill, the governor is disrespecting every teacher, student and community in Illinois," she added. "We are in the midst of a crisis the governor does not seem interested in fixing."

Rauner suggested local districts adopt "pay-for-performance, diversified pay for teachers in hard-to-staff schools or subjects, or pay incentives for teachers with prior work experience" as ways to reward exceptional teachers in challenging environments. "I highly encourage local school districts to adopt and implement the compensation structures that best suit their local needs," he added.

Rauner signed a handful of bills into law earlier this month intended to address Illinois's teacher shortage, but the IEA was quick to point out that the hike in the minimum wage was not among them.