A set of measures designed to address Illinois’ teacher shortage crisis passed the state Senate Wednesday night, championed by State Senator Andy Manar, the plan’s sponsor.
Senate Bill 1952 received bipartisan support and will go to the House for consideration.
The measure contains the following provisions:
• It reinstates the 6 percent cap for teacher salary increases to be covered by the state. Last year, lawmakers lowered the cap to 3 percent.
• It removes the requirement that teachers must pass a basic skills test to be licensed.
• It permits K-12 student teachers and early childhood student teachers to be paid.
• It creates a refund program for teachers in underfunded, hard-to-staff school districts to recoup the cost of the teacher performance assessment.
• It allows early childhood student teachers to be paid and receive credit
“We have to continue making changes to the things that are detrimental to the teaching profession and are driving would-be teachers to other states,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat. “I think this package is a necessary step, and I am excited that it contains excellent ideas that originated with teachers on the frontlines in schools throughout the state.”
Illinois’ teaching shortage is more profound in rural and downstate communities, studies show.
Last year, Manar passed a different set of measures to address the teacher shortage crisis, including slashing red tape to encourage educators outside of Illinois to apply for hard-to-fill jobs here, creating a short-term substitute teaching license and allowing downstate retired teachers to substitute in classrooms without jeopardizing their retirement benefits. The packaged was signed into law in June.
With Illinois’ teacher shortage crisis worsening in many parts of the state, the Illinois Senate on Thursday approved Manar’s plan to phase in an increase to the state’s minimum mandated wage for teachers.
Senate Bill 10, which has statewide bipartisan support, incrementally increases to $40,000 the minimum salary that school districts must offer teachers. The increases would begin in the 2020-2021 school year and would occur over four years, reaching $40,000 in the 2023-2024 school year.
Current state law mandates a minimum salary of only $10,000 for teachers with bachelor’s degrees. The law has not been updated since 1980.
“We have a critical shortage of teachers in Illinois, and the minimum salary we offer them is a key factor in being able to attract more young teachers into the profession. This is a reasonable, incremental plan to address the shortage,” Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said.
The legislation includes a directive for the professional review panel – which was established under the evidence-based school funding formula overhaul – to offer recommendations to lawmakers for how to help underfunded school districts cover costs associated with the increase prior to implementation of the minimum.
According to a recent report by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, 85 percent of schools surveyed are experiencing difficulty filling teacher positions – up from 78 percent in 2017. The shortage is worse in central and southern Illinois.
Manar said a higher minimum salary reflects the state’s respect and support for teachers, as well as the education required to be a teacher and the work they do in classrooms.
“Professional educators should not be living below the poverty level, but that’s exactly what’s happening in communities all over the state,” he said. “We expect teachers to solve all the problems of the world, and we hold them accountable for that. It’s time we pay them appropriately for it.”
Manar’s teacher minimum wage measure passed in both houses of the Legislature last year with bipartisan support but was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The House passed a measure similar to Senate Bill 10 this week.