SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Education Association supports the additional funding provided in the newly passed state budget for both higher education and K-12 education, however the organization has serious concerns about the changes made to TRS and SURS.

There is also money set aside for the expansion of broadband for schools and an additional $45 million for building funds for schools. And in another legislative accomplishment, there was a great IEA-backed proposal for a $40,000 minimum salary for educators, with a four-year phase-in for less wealthy districts, which will continue to increase along with the economy based on the consumer price index.

“This is great news for so many of our members,” said Kathi Griffin, IEA president. “More money for schools benefits students in every way. And, the fact that legislators wanted to see educators earn a decent living is a huge step forward. We still have a lot of work to do on higher ed funding, and there is a group being formed to see to that, and work to do to ensure all members earn a living wage. That’s next on our list.”

In addition to all of the good news, there was also a last-minute pension proposal introduced as part of the budget package that has several components, the most concerning of which is a decrease to 3 percent from the current 6 percent that employers can offer educators in both the Teachers’ Retirement System and State Universities Retirement System for pay increases in the four years used to calculate their retirement without incurring any additional costs.

Because educators can qualify for the pension program after five years, the concern is that employers may want to limit any salary increases to 3 percent, which would deter people from furthering their education, and dissuade people from entering the profession, ultimately lowering the quality of education our students receive.

“At a time when Illinois is facing a teacher shortage, this is a short-sighted and disrespectful move. We need to be taking steps to attract the best and brightest to teach our youth. This is a step in the wrong direction and ultimately harms students,” Griffin said.

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The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.