SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Education Association initiated a bill to repeal the 3 percent salary limit law that shifts the state’s cost of paying for an educator’s pensionable earnings to local school districts and institutions of higher education and local property tax payers.
The bill, which was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Plainfield) as Senate Bill 60 and in the House by Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison) as House Bill 350, is meant to help ease the teacher shortage Illinois is currently facing.
“The 3 percent limitation is a disincentive for school districts to offer any increase in compensation above 3 percent regardless of whether the educator goes the extra mile to be the best in their field and provide the best education for students,” said Kathi Griffin, IEA president.
“Districts and higher education institutions are applying this to all active TRS and SURS members no matter how close they are to retirement. This is impacting the ability of our public schools and higher education institutions to attract and retain the best and brightest, while also having to compete against private sector and out-of-state entities that can offer more attractive financial packages. We are driving our own kids out of the state.”
Since the measure initially passed last summer as part of the Budget Implementation Bill, it has had a chilling effect on educator professional development, further inhibiting the ability of educational institutions to attract and retain educators into a profession that is in the midst of a sustainability crisis and has hampered contract negotiations across the state.
“This measure has had unintended consequences and we understand that. Repealing the 3 percent gets us back to where we were before and allows our school districts and institutions of higher education to better compete for talent in what is already a scarce marketplace because of the teacher shortage and allows us to do better for our students in Illinois,” Willis said.
Districts, not wanting to assume the pension costs for any salary increase above 3 percent, are refusing to reward teachers who earn master’s degrees, obtain additional academic credentials, perform extracurricular duties such as directing plays or coaching teams, become Nationally Board Certified Teachers, and other enhancements that directly benefit students.
“Restoring the threshold to where it was prior to last summer will give districts more leeway in what they can offer educators who go above and beyond for our students. We need to do all we can to attract the best and brightest to teaching, not push them away,” Bertino-Tarrant said.
IEA has been asking members to sign a petition in support of this repeal. To date, nearly 18,000 have done so.
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.