Photo: Illinois teacher Bentley Stewart speaks the day Gov. J.B. Pritzker (left) signed a bill that raises starting teacher salaries.
By Cindy Long
Recruiting and retaining teachers in Illinois is about to get a little easier for districts, thanks to a pay raise that the Illinois Education Association advocated for.
Last August, Gov. J.B. Pritzker raised the minimum salary for Illinois teachers to $40,000. The minimum salary change will be phased in over four years, and will then rise based on the Consumer Price Index.
Just like other school districts throughout the country, Illinois is experiencing a teacher shortage resulting from low pay and increasing demands and stress on educators.
Bentley Stewart is only in her second year teaching at the Crossroads Learning Center in the Jacksonville District and is already feeling burned out. She currently earns $34,000 and says teachers need to feel more secure and valued in their profession.
“It’s hard to be a teacher, it’s emotionally trying and it’s very demanding,” Stewart said at the bill signing ceremony. “This is a good first step and teachers can see that they are appreciated, which is amazing.”
The Illinois Education Association (IEA) advocated for the starting salary increase as a way to attract and retain new educators and to place more value on the critical work they do.
“We are losing people and we’re having a hard time convincing people that this is a good profession to go into,” says IEA communications director Bridget Shanahan. “There’s research out there that shows for the first time ever parents are telling their kids not to be teachers and that’s alarming and it should really make folks think about the state of public education.”
Last year IEA’s State of Education poll showed that most Illinoisans have a positive view of public school teachers, and more than half believe teachers are paid too little.
“The two words most closely associated with teachers in Illinois are underpaid and undervalued,” says Shanahan. “That has to change. We hope that we can continue moving forward and making the teaching profession a more attractive career.”