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New plan would guarantee Illinois teacher pay starts at $40,000 a year

Illinois Watchdog.Org

Friday, April 13, 2018  |  Article  |  By Benjamin Yount

Education--Elementary and Secondary (36) , Pensions (70) Scherer, Sue--State House, 96
A new plan at the Illinois Capitol could require local school districts to give some teachers a raise, but doesn't provide any additional funding to do so. 

The average teacher salary in Illinois is $64,516, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. Starting teacher salaries are often about half that. 

A plan at the statehouse would require schools to start teachers at $40,000 a year. 

State Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, a former teacher, said the bill would end Illinois' teacher shortage. 

"People say they're the education this, and the education that," Scherer said of lawmakers who claim to support teachers. "But when it is time to put their money where their mouth is, we can't afford it."

Some local school district officials say they don't have the money. 

Streator High School Superintendent Matt Seaton said he starts new teachers at $34,357. The district pays $3,565 in pension contributions. 

"We would obviously be affected by this," Seaton said in an email. "This takes out a part of the local control that is important for boards of education to have.  I would prefer to deal with this issue locally in conjunction with my local union."

Seaton said Scherer and other lawmakers are expecting local schools to come up with this money on their own. 

"This is an unfunded mandate," Seaton said. "I have not seen any additional funding to support this type of a pay increase outside of the new evidence-based model that has a regional multiplier built into it to take into account the differences in teachers' salaries across the state."

It's not just teacher salaries that Illinois needs to look at, said Andrew Nelms with Americans for Prosperity In Illinois. 

He said taxpayers pay for teacher salaries, benefits, and pensions in the state. A significant portion of schools' revenue coming from property taxes, which in Illinois are second highest in the nation, according to a new study.

Nelms said simply comparing a teacher’s salary to someone in the private sector is comparing apples and oranges. 

"To get a real snapshot of their compensation, you need to look at their total package," Nelms said.

Illinois' Teachers' Retirement System is one of the driving factors in the state's worst-in-the-nation pension debt. The state will pay about $4 billion this year for teacher retirements. 

The teacher pay plan is headed to the full Illinois House for a possible vote.