lllinois is in the grips of a severe teacher shortage, but late last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed legislation to raise their wages. The bill would’ve ramped up the minimum salary to $40,000 by the year 2022. In a message explaining his veto, Rauner called that an “unfunded mandate.”
But State Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), who sponsored the legislation, says he hasn’t given up on the effort.
“Sunday started Day One of the process to build a coalition to override the governor's veto," Manar says.
The last time state lawmakers set a minimum teacher salary was 1980, and the salary they set was $10,000. These days, the lowest salaries hover around $27,000. But data from the Illinois State Board of Education shows that more than 525 of the state’s 852 districts offer new teachers with bachelor’s degrees a salary that’s under $40,000. In 300 Illinois school districts, even teachers with master’s degrees earn less than $40,000 a year.
Manar points to this pay scale as a big driver of the teacher shortage.
"And it's not going to get better just because we wish it to get better. It's going to get better with bold policy change, and I'm disappointed that the governor couldn't see that,” Manar says. “And he doesn't understand the issue enough to know it, because this bill should have gotten his signature."
Rauner suggested addressing the shortage by paying higher salaries for teaching certain subjects. Manar says that’s a good idea, but called it “nibbling around the edges” of a larger problem.
"There should be no teacher in Illinois that lives in poverty. There should be no young teacher who's been in the classroom for one or two years that has to worry about how they're going to pay off a student loan. I mean, that's the circumstances today, and that's why we have a teacher shortage."
The bill earned a veto-proof majority in the Senate, but fell short by six votes in the House. In his veto message, Rauner called the bill an unfunded mandate and suggested teacher pay could be based on performance.