Rauner vetoes teacher raises, denies union rights for graduate assistants

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RAUNER

By CARL GREEN

Illinois Correspondent

Springfield IL – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has vetoed two more bills designed to help Illinois workers, leaving their Democratic Party sponsors to consider whether to seek overrides.

Rauner vetoed legislation that would have raised the minimum salary for Illinois public school teachers for the first time in nearly 40 years. The bill would have raised the minimum Illinois teacher salary from $10,000 to $32,076 next year, then gradually increase it in each of the next three years to $40,000 by 2022.

Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) sponsored the legislation in conjunction with the Illinois Education Association (IEA) teachers’ union in part to counteract a serious teacher shortage in a state where some teachers currently live at or below the poverty line.

“Refusing to guarantee professional educators a livable minimum wage is no way to lure more teachers to Illinois,” Manar said. “I’m disappointed in the governor’s veto, and I know thousands of dedicated, hard-working, creative educators throughout the state are, too.”

NOT A FRIEND

IEA President Kathi Griffin said her members were disappointed but not surprised by the veto.

“The governor repeatedly says he’s a friend of education, but his actions tell us otherwise,” Griffin said. “Senator Manar’s legislation would have been the best way to combat the teacher shortage in Illinois. Studies show the most effective way to alleviate a teacher shortage crisis is through respect and adequate wages.

“By vetoing this bill, the governor is disrespecting every teacher, student and community in Illinois,” Griffin said, adding, “We are in the midst of a crisis the governor does not seem interested in fixing.”

To override the governor’s veto in the Illinois House would require at least 67 votes, two more than the bill received when it was passed, largely along party lines, in May. A Senate override would be a lock. It voted 37-16 for the bill, well over the three-fifths needed for an override.

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RAUNER SEES RAISES AS ‘INEFFICIENT’

Rauner said he vetoed the bill because the minimum pay is an “inefficient” way to compensate teachers and an “unfunded mandate” on school districts. He suggested more use of merit pay.

His opponent in the November election, Democrat J.D. Pritzker, noted that Rauner is denying pay raises to teachers despite the teacher shortage.

Jim Reed, government relations director for IEA, said the legislation was based on several years of study, adding that the new school funding formula would help districts pay the higher salaries.

“It would provide additional funding for school districts to be able to plan and to manage finances to get their staff up to what we believe is certainly a minimum salary for what they’re worth,” Reed said.

The teacher shortage is a crisis for Illinois, Reed said, “and you don’t address that by sort of sitting back on your hands and letting districts decide over months or over years what kind of incentives they can provide,” he said.

GRAD ASSISTANTS DENIED UNION RIGHTS

Rauner also vetoed a bill to extend union rights to graduate assistants who teach classes and do research for universities while working toward higher degrees.

The bill would provide graduate assistants the same rights and remedies as other educational employees, including the right to collectively bargain for better working conditions.

“Graduate assistants perform a very important duty, both to their universities and to society, but they often have unfair working conditions since they’re not classified as employees,” said the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Daniel Biss of Evanston. “They deserve to have the same rights as other educational employees.”

Biss said he plans to file an override motion.

“Since he took office, Governor Rauner has continually shown that he is not a friend to working class people, and this veto is nothing more than another entry on a long list of his attacks on labor rights.”

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