Chicago, Illinois, USA : Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (Republican) vetoed a bill on Sunday that would have raised the minimum salary for teachers from $9,000 to $40,000 within five years.
The bill approved by lawmakers in the spring would make the minimum teacher salary for next school year $32,076. The number would rise to $40,000 for the 2022-23 term and grow with the Consumer Price Index after that.
In vetoing the bill, Rauner said he preferred tying pay increases for teachers to performance and incentives.
“Teachers are our greatest asset in ensuring the future of our youth and they deserve to be well-compensated for their hard work,” Rauner wrote in his veto message.
“However, minimum pay legislation is neither the most efficient nor the most effective way to compensate our teachers,” Rauner wrote.
“Things like pay-for-performance, diversified pay for teachers in hard-to-staff schools or subjects, or pay incentives for teachers with prior work experience are all viable options to provide greater compensation for teachers,” Rauner continued.
When the legislation narrowly passed the state Senate in May, Republicans expressed concerns that it would have put struggling communities, particularly rural ones, under undue financial burden.
Republicans, including Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said this would be a massive unfunded mandate for rural schools. “If you are looking for the unfunded mandate of all unfunded mandates, it is before you today,” he said.
Sen. Jason Barickman, the GOP’s leader in education matters, said the new school funding formula wouldn’t cover the difference in the teacher raises, resulting in bigger deficits at a local level. “One school district is going to have a negative $900,000 impact over four years as a result of this bill,” he said.
Democrats insisted that the bill would bring much needed funds to teachers.
While it wouldn’t affect many Chicago and suburban Chicago school districts, many in southern Illinois would have to increase pay for teachers. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, more than 500 schools would have to increase their beginning pay for teachers with a bachelor’s degree, some by more than $10,000 over the next four years.
Senator Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, who sponsored the bill, said the state’s new education funding formula signed into law last fall would send those schools more money. He said this would guarantee that it goes to teacher paychecks.
“This will reinforce the need to continue down the path toward greater equity,” he said. “It would work together nicely with the work that we’ve done on evidence-based funding.”
State Senator Andy Manar (D) said Sunday that he was “disappointed” with the governor.
“Refusing to guarantee professional educators a livable minimum wage is no way to lure more teachers to Illinois,” Manar said in a statement. “I’m disappointed in the governor’s veto, and I know thousands of dedicated, hard-working, creative educators throughout the state are too.”
Rauner has clashed with teacher interest groups before. The governor cheered the Supreme Court’s decision against public-sector unions (Janus vs AFSCME) in June, calling public-sector unions inherently political.
State lawmakers could try to override Rauner’s veto when they go back to Springfield after the November election, but it could be difficult. Supporters would have to find six more supporters of the minimum teacher salary bill than voted for it back in May.
Illinois law currently lists the minimum salary for a teacher at $9,000, a level that took effect in July 1980.