CARBONDALE (WSIL) — Thousands of teachers across the state will get a raise over the next few years.
Illinois has 2,894 unfilled teaching positions across the state, and Carbondale Education Association president Melissa Norman said that’s partially because Illinois schools don’t always offer competitive wages.
"We do have some small districts across the state of Illinois who are not able to provide competitive wages just because of the size of the district," Norman said.
She said the Carbondale district pays fairly well but that’s not the necessarily case everywhere, "We do see a lot of teachers from surrounding districts who come in and want to be a part of Carbondale District 95 and a lot of it is the salary."
And teachers need the money.
"A lot of teachers come in with not only just a bachelor’s, some continue and have their master’s, so they have a large amount of student loan debt," Norman said. "We have teachers in Carbondale District 95 that we know spend well over $1,000 a year out-of-pocket and that money maybe is spent on education expenses within their classroom, but we also have teachers who go out and spend their own personal money to buy clothing and other needs for the students."
Pritzker signed House Bill 2078 on Thursday, a bill that gradually raises the teacher’s minimum wage to $40,000 per year by 2023.
“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’,”
The raises start next year at $32,076 per year and will increase each year until 2023.
Schools are heavily reliant on property taxes and opponents of the bill worry it could lead to tax increases, but Pritzker said the state has already increased funding for schools at the state level.
"So actually we’re doing, I think, a good job of trying to address the pressure that’s been there on local property taxes by having the state step up to the plate in areas where it should," Pritzker said.
And teachers like Norman hope the law will make it easier to recruit others to come to Illinois.