SPRINGFIELD – Without an increase to the teacher minimum wage and other changes to reverse Illinois’ teacher shortage, people should get comfortable with reports like one released this week showing the crisis is worsening.
“Either you’re comfortable with the crisis, or you should be comfortable with changes in state policy to fix it. That’s a pretty easy choice,” Manar(D-Bunker Hill) said.
Manar is the sponsor of a plan to incrementally raise the minimum wage for teachers in Illinois to $40,000. The plan, which is meant to attract more young teachers to the profession, had bipartisan support last year but was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
According to a report released this week 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.
Furthermore, substitute teacher shortages are a serious problem at roughly 5 in 8 school districts. And a majority of superintendents indicated that vacant positions listed in the fall of 2018 remain unfilled or are being filled unqualified professionals. This resulted in 225 classes being canceled.
A total of 527 school districts responded to the survey.
“If we don’t change the course we’re on, it’s only logical that next year’s report is going to look worse than this year’s,” Manar said. “The first immediate thing we can do in Springfield to address this crisis is establish a livable base rate of pay for teachers and raise it incrementally.”
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.
“We have to hold up the profession of teaching, we have to celebrate our teachers, we have to root for their success and we have to guarantee them a decent rate of pay when they start teaching,” he said. “A higher minimum salary will go a very long way to recruiting young people to fill these vacant classrooms that exist in nearly every downstate community today.”