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With inflation, Illinois teachers earn less than they did a decade ago

A woman with a face mask holds a sign that says, "Listen to your teacher."
Champaign Federation of Teachers Co-President Lisa Milkereit pauses next to a line of marchers during recent contract negotiations with the Unit 4 School District.

CHAMPAIGN — Teacher salaries in Illinois have not kept up with inflation.

That’s true nationwide, according to new research by the labor union, the National Education Association.

Champaign Federation of Teachers co-president Mike Sitch says he’s particularly worried about young teachers right now.

“Those [young] individuals usually feel the pain of inflation more than the members with locked-in interest rates with homes or who have paid off their vehicles, like your older members,” Sitch says.

After adjusting for inflation, teachers are paid about 3.5 percent less in Illinois and 3.87 percent less nationwide than they were a decade ago.

NEA says teacher pay started to catch up with inflation during the national Red for Ed movement. During the uncertainty and high inflation of the COVID-19 pandemic though, adjusted salary has sunk to its lowest level in a decade.

Teachers earn less than similarly educated peers

Teachers in Illinois earn 81 cents for every dollar that similarly educated and experienced workers make in other industries.

Sitch says he’s seen an exodus of teachers this year to higher-paying jobs in the healthcare, software and curriculum industries.

“Many of these companies are looking for highly skilled, knowledgeable employees who can work from home. It becomes an easy fit. They don’t have to leave their community and they can still work for a corporation out of Chicago,” Sitch says.

The average starting salary for teachers in Illinois is around $41,000. That’s more than $10,000 less than the living wage of $52,800 for an adult with one child in Illinois’ most affordable metro area, according to the NEA.

Champaign teachers are relatively well-paid, compared to state averages.

The Champaign Unit 4 School District agreed to raise salaries for teachers in recent contract negotiations. Retroactive to the start of this year, the base salary for Champaign teachers is $44,598.

Emily Hays is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter @amihatt.

Picture of Emily Hays

Emily Hays

Emily Hays started at WILL in October 2021 after three-plus years in local newsrooms in Virginia and Connecticut. She has won state awards for her housing coverage at Charlottesville Tomorrow and her education reporting at the New Haven Independent. Emily graduated from Yale University where she majored in History and South Asian Studies.

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