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Pritzker signs bill raising minimum teacher salary to $40,000

The legislation promises to address Illinois’ “dire” teacher shortage.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker meeting with the Sun-Times Editorial Board.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Sun-Times file photo

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday signed a bill raising teachers’ minimum salary to $40,000 in an effort to address the “dire” statewide teacher shortage.

“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.”

Pritzker said current minimum salaries range from $9,000 to $11,000 and haven’t been raised “in decades.”

“That outdated baseline allows many positions, particularly in rural communities, to be shortchanged,” he said.

The bill takes effect Jan. 1 and will increase wages for teachers over the next four years.

Officials estimate the new law will affect about 8,000 of the state’s 127,000 full-time public school teachers.

According to data from the Illinois State Board of Education, the average salary of a public school teacher in the state was $65,721 during the 2017-2018 academic year, the most recent year for which figures are available. But the salaries for individual teachers varies greatly, depending on their location, years of experience, their own level of education and the financial resources of the district in which they teach.

Next school year, the minimum salary will be $32,076, and the year after that will be $34,576. The 2022-2023 school year will see a minimum salary of $37,076, eventually reaching the goal of $40,000 by the 2023-2024 school year.

School districts have been unable to pay teachers enough because they lack state funding, Pritzker said.

“The state has really not stepped up to its obligation to fund schools ... we are second to last in the nation in state funding for education,” he said.

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the same bill last year, saying minimum pay is an inefficient way to compensate teachers.

“I was so happy to sponsor this legislation, I was happy to be a co-sponsor of it last time and disappointed in the veto by Gov. Rauner,” said state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville. “It was a no brainer to bring it back because I knew that we would have the support in our champion, Gov. Pritzker.”

Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery said the bill will encourage “high-quality professionals” to become teachers and remain in the profession.

“We have a teacher shortage in our state, and research shows that fair compensation plays a major factor in a person’s decision to choose and stay in a profession,” Montgomery said in a statement. “Too often new teachers struggle financially, and many are forced to work a second job to make ends meet.”

Contributing: Capitol News Illinois