Illinois is raising the bar for teacher pay: By the first day of school in 2023, teachers will make at least $40,000 following a bill signed into law Thursday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
"To teachers all across Illinois: I see the care and compassion you put into your work, and I'm proud to help make sure you earn what you're worth," Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a tweet Thursday.
The teachers' salaries will be raised incrementally under H.B. 2078, from $32,076 for the 2020-21 school year to $34,576 in 2021-22, $37,076 in 2022-23 and $40,000 in 2023-24.
The current minimum teacher salary ranges from only $9,000 to $11,000, depending on the individual teacher's level of education.
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A public school teacher in Illinois makes an average of $65,721, according to a 2018 report from the National Education Association. This number ranks 11th in the nation.
New York, where the average public school teacher makes $84,227, ranks the highest.
The raises in Illinois are intended to address a statewide shortage - data from the Illinois State Board of Education for the 2018-19 school year showed 1,848 unfilled teaching positions across the state.
Education has been a leading topic in the 2020 presidential race, with Democratic candidates raising issues of student debt, the school-to-prison pipeline and teacher wages.
California Sen. Kamala Harris has proposed a plan that would give American teachers a significant raise. The money would come largely from the federal government, which would provide at least $315 billion to supplement state funds to ensure the average teacher a $13,500 raise.
"The people who are going to educate our children are our teachers and for too long, they have been paid substandard wages," Harris said in an interview on CBS in March. "Let's pay them their value."
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This year, Oklahoma boosted teacher salaries after threats of strikes left legislators frantically seeking solutions. The state's governor, Kevin Stitts, signed a bill that would include giving 97% of the state's public school teachers a $1,220 raise.
In Texas, legislators recently passed a bill that is sending $6.5 billion to improve public education and raise teacher salaries. Although the initial plan outlined $5,000 raises, that number wasn't in the final bill signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Dallas Morning News reported that most teachers have seen much less than that.
The National Education Association has found that teacher pay is declining nationally when adjusted for inflation.
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Most Americans believe teachers deserve higher pay and have the right to protest if they are being paid unfairly, according to a poll last year by USA TODAY and Ipsos Public Affairs.
"We criminally underpay teachers, and I think that they are not really as respected as they should be," said Daniel Galluppi, 39, a data manager from Pittsburgh whose children attend public school. He was among those who participated in the poll. "They're not just child care for children, but they're teaching these kids how to be successful and productive members of society."
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Illinois will raise minimum teacher salary to $40K by 2023