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Dual minimum wage proposals would mean sharply higher costs for school districts

Illinois Watchdog.Org

Wednesday, February 6, 2019  |  Article  |  By Greg Bishop

Education--Elementary and Secondary (36) , Minimum Wage (10) Barickman, Jason--State House, 105 , Manar, Andy--State Senate, 48 , Weaver, Chuck -- State Senate, 37
School districts could see sharply higher costs as lawmakers consider not only boosting the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour over a number of years, but also a separate bill setting minimum pay requirements for teachers

The Senate will take another crack at raising the minimum pay for Illinois teachers. Senate Bill 10 from state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hills, is similar to a measure that passed last year, but was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner. Rauner said pay practices should be left to locally elected school boards.

"[That] approach to teacher compensation both limits a school district’s local control and imposes a significant unfunded mandate on school districts," Rauner wrote in his veto message last year.

With a new governor and Democratic supermajorities in both chambers, Manar got his bill through the Senate education committee Tuesday. He said it won’t increase how much the state gives school districts under the recently passed school funding formula, but it will have a local impact with the initial year of the five-year phase into a $40,000 minimum being just over $32,000.

“[The first year is] $32,076,” Manar said. “And I don’t hide behind that. This has a budgetary impact on local school districts."

The School Management Alliance’s Zach Messersmith told committee members on Tuesday that they’d rather the state leave the issue to the school districts.

“We believe in local collective bargaining and we would like to see salaries negotiated locally,” Messersmith said.

Manar said the measure is just one step in trying to keep qualified teachers in Illinois. He said teachers are being recruited by other states and other jobs with higher salaries.

State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said the measure will likely do a couple of things.

“It’s either going to reduce the number of teachers that we’re able to employ, it’s going to raise property taxes, or it’s going to make some unintentional consequences within a school district,” Barickman said.

Another unintended consequence could be the compounding increased cost of a proposed $15 minimum wage for employees statewide.

State Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, said he’s already hearing that the other minimum wage promised by Gov. J.B. Pritzker is set to increase the amount of money school districts pay to employees outside the classroom.

“I’m getting calls, I have one district that says the minimum wage that’s proposed right now is going to cost that district $750,000 that they don’t have,” Weaver said. “So, you’ve got that dynamic going on right now and you’re going to add this crunch to it."

Weaver reiterated Barickman’s concerns that, if passed, the measure will lead to higher property taxes. The measure now heads to the full Senate for a vote.