Pritzker signs $40K minimum teacher salary
Raise will affect 8,000 positions and help address statewide teacher shortage
By Ted Cox
Acknowledging “we have a teacher shortage in this state,” Gov. Pritzker signed a bill into law Thursday setting $40,000 as the minimum teacher salary.
It takes effect with the new year and will increase a teacher’s minimum salary in annual steps to $32,000 next year and to $40,000 by the 2023-24 school year. The state minimum teacher salary hadn’t been changed in decades, and the current minimum salary averages about $10,000 statewide. That has been blamed for a teacher shortage, especially in central and southern Illinois. According to Pritzker, the hike in pay will affect about 8,000 positions statewide.
“We have a teacher shortage in this state, because the state has not really stepped up to its obligation to fund schools,” Pritzker said at the signing ceremony Thursday in Springfield.
“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. “In signing this legislation, we’re addressing our teacher shortage and gradually putting teachers on track to make at least $40,000 a year by the first day of school in 2023. 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.”
Teachers and union leaders emphasized that the higher minimum will benefit young teachers — many paying off student loans and working two jobs to make ends meet — “and their students,” as Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin stated. It will also raise the stature of teachers by showing that the state values them enough to pay them a decent salary.
“This $40,000 minimum-salary legislation sends a message to future teachers that they are valued and respected in Illinois,” Griffin 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.”
“This $40,000 minimum-salary legislation sends a message to future teachers that they are valued and respected in Illinois.”
IEA President Kathi Griffin (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
Jen White, of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, said that the Champaign school district had begun the school year with 30 positions vacant — a third of them in special education and English as a second language.
“The teacher shortage is now at a crisis level,” White said. “I’ve seen a growing number of our new teachers struggle to make ends meet on their starting salary. Many of them are crippled by student-loan debt and the rising cost of health insurance.” Combined with new teachers setting up their classrooms and buying back-to-school supplies, “and paying to continue their own education,” she added, “many young teachers fall below the federal poverty level and resort to getting a second job.”
Bentley Stewart, a second-year teacher making $34,000 in Jacksonville, said she had returned to her hometown to teach, but that she had to move back in with her parents and take a second job to pay the bills. She added that many of her own former teachers had advised her not to enter the field because of the “low pay and student debt.”
“This bill is great news for us and other current and future teachers,” Stewart said. “By passing this law, you have told us that we are valued.” Financial security was also a key concern.
“We also want to be secure in knowing we’ll be able to raise our families and that our families will be secure, and this law goes a long way towards that,” she added. “This new law will allow future teachers to begin the profession with that confidence they need. It shows us that Illinoisans respect educators and the work that we do for our students and our own communities.”
State Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill, lead sponsor of the bill, said it was intended to fund school districts struggling with costs and the need to offer a competitive salary to address the teacher shortage, and that it was built on the evidence-based funding in the new formula he passed through the General Assembly two years ago.
“This is a long-needed change, and I’m glad to see that both sides of the aisle came forward to support this legislation,” Manar said. “We’re showing that we value teachers in Illinois and that’s going to go a long way toward attracting qualified teachers in Illinois and convincing young people to consider a career in education.”
“The districts that benefit from EBF — evidence-based funding — are in fact many of districts where people are getting paid under $40,000,” Pritzker said.
The governor pointed out the state had increased its education funding $500 million in the new budget passed this year, paying “not only the required amount for the evidence-based-funding model, but we actually went over and above that.”
Pritzker blamed the state and previous administrations for bringing on the teacher shortage — and forcing property taxes to rise — by failing to fulfill the state’s constitutional requirement to be the “primary” funder of education.
“We are second-to-last in the nation in state funding for education,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons that school districts have become challenged to pay people.
“If the state will step up to the plate, we can make sure that teachers get paid properly,” he added. “This is just one step on the road to making sure we get great teachers and enough teachers, that we’ve got schools that people want to go to.”
He said the increased education funding would also provide the opportunity for local districts to pass on property-tax relief, especially with local governments getting a $650 million investment in the $45 billion capital bill for infrastructure, and with the expected passage of Pritzker’s “fair tax” in a state referendum next year.
“One of the reasons that we have high property taxes in our state is because we’re second-to-last in state funding,” Pritzker said. “So where does the burden fall? It falls on the local property-tax payer.” He added that even if the state moved up to paying half of all education funding — the national average — that would be “alleviating property taxes by paying for local schools more on the state level.”
Dan Cox, the school superintendent in Staunton, said it was primarily about the schools and teachers. “Investing in them is investing in our schools,” he said. “School districts will have the opportunity to attract and retain the best and the brightest teachers.”
“Last school year, around 1,400 positions for teachers remained open,” said state Rep. Katie Stewart of Edwardsville, lead sponsor of the bill in the House. “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.”