New teachers react to Pritzker signing bill for a $40K starting salary in 2023

ORION, Illinois – Some new teachers in the Quad Cities are making below the $40,000 salary mark Gov. J.B. Pritzker is addressing.

Thursday morning, the Governor signed new legislation raising teachers’ minimum salary to $40,000 over four years to address a shortage of teachers in Illinois. The $40,000 will be reached by 2023.

Teachers at Orion Middle School are putting in 50 plus hours a week.  As a new teacher that could be a lot of pressure especially when they start out not making much.

Brandon Wilkerson started teaching at Orion Middle School two weeks ago.  He’s a sixth-grade math teacher with a starting salary of $37,000.

“If I wanted the pay, I would’ve done math or statistics or something like that,” says Wilkerson.

Wilkerson graduated from Augustana College in May with student loans to pay. The $37,000 salary he currently makes is enough, but with rent, loans, and a car payment – he says more would make it easier.

“There is a teacher shortage in Illinois and part of that is they are not getting paid competitive wages for other jobs that people can do,” Wilkerson comments.

Governor Pritzker says the current minimum for teachers in Illinois is about $10,000, which hasn’t been raised in decades.

Colona Superintendent, Carl Johnson, believes this could be a fresh start for school districts looking to hire new teachers.

“My first years as a principal in a large district, if you were hiring for a social studies teacher or an English teacher, it wasn’t uncommon to have 100 applicants – quality applicants,” adds Johnson. “Now you’re probably looking at 20 quality applicants.”

Colona pays teachers starting out $36,000. To reach $40,000 by 2023 the district may have to update their current agreement over the next few years.

“We have a three-year collective bargaining agreement for us right now,” Johnson explains. “This is the first year of it, so in three years we are going to have to go back to the drawing board and keep pace with the $40,000 dollar minimum that is coming.”

Wilkerson said he didn’t choose teaching for the money, but it still is a major factor.

“I think when kids go to college and they tell their parents they want to be a teacher, they’re like “well, how are you going to pay for loans with that?”,” explains Wilkerson.

The bill will go in effect January 1st and salaries will increase each year. The first raise will be next year to $32,000.  Currently 6,500 teachers make less than that in that state.

The Iowa Department of Education says they do not require schools to pay a minimum salary, but all school districts have starting salaries of at least $35,000.

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