Macoupin school superintendents weigh in on teacher shortage bills

Macoupin school superintendents weigh in on teacher shortage

By JORDAN GRUCZA

Enquirer Democrat Reporter

A pair of bills to address Illinois’ teacher shortage passed both houses with an outpouring of support from both Democrats and Republicans on Wednesday, May 29. The first bill would gradually increase the teacher minimum salary while the second directs the professional review panel established from  the educational funding reform passed in the previous General Assembly to report how the wage increase will effect he evidence-based funding model, whose purpose is to “bridge the gap” for districts that have difficulty meeting the requirements of the bill.

“For the state as a whole, we’re on the path to restoring some professionalism to the teaching profession,” said Staunton school superintendent Dan Cox. “And we do need to support and pay our teachers. That being said, the bill, based on how the Staunton schedule has worked, does have a minimal impact, and we would have to collectively bargain that with our union.

“One of the things that the bill does that is helpful is that it included the Teacher Retirement Fund,” said Cox. “So that minimum wage is not just their base salary. It includes, if the district makes a TRF contribution, that’s part of it as well. Some districts pay for TRF 100 percent, some districts pay a lower percentage, some districts don’t pay at all. If your starting salary was $39,000 and the district paid the TRF at $2,000, that puts their total package at around roughly $41,000, which would put them over what’s mandated in the bill. If you don’t pay TRF, then you’re under by $2,000. So then there would need to be a decision made over whether you need to raise the pay, or do you maybe incorporate TRF? Those are the decisions districts would be looking at. And with the gradual increase in wages, you don’t have to be on that timeline next year, so you do have time to plan and work ahead.”

Dr. Becky Schuchman, school superintendent for Carlinville, stated that hers is one of the districts that won’t see any negative consequences from the bill.

“Out salary is fine as far as the $40,000 minimum, so there’s not going to be significant changes in that area for us, other than normal cost increases based on cost of living. As far as the teacher shortage goes, obviously the minimum salary is a barrier for them to attract new people to the district. Our main issue is that there just aren’t enough teachers out there to fill the positions that are currently available. Particularly in rural areas that’s a problem because that pool is even smaller than in an urban or metropolitan area. Population dictates that. It used to be that you had hard to staff positions where you didn’t have enough individuals receiving certification for that position. Now that’s across the board. We’re seeing fewer elementary teachers, we’re seeing where we might have had 100 applicants we now have four applicants. Salary is one step, but getting people into the profession to begin with is a whole other issue.”

Read the full story in the 6-13-19 edition and e-edition of the Macoupin County Enquirer~Democrat.