About 125 teachers who work for the Kaneland School District, wearing red shirts and carrying placards, held a rally earlier this week in advance of their school board meeting.
Kaneland is near Sugar Grove in Kane County, west of Chicago.
The current contract expires this weekend.
Currently, new teachers in Kaneland starting salary is around $40,000 a year.
If the $40,000 number sounds familiar, it is because the Illinois legislature voted in the recent session to make $40,000 the minimum salary for teachers in Illinois.
To be enacted in four years.
$40,000 is what Kaneland’s beginning teachers get now.
The $40,000 minimum was Senator Andy Manar’s idea for addressing the teacher shortage crisis. The rest of the Democratic Party controlled state General Assembly agreed with him.
This was not a bold move. Even in rural Kane County $40,000 is barely a livable wage.
Maybe some Illinois Democrats think a livable wage for teachers is socialism and so are against it.
The union says a sticking point is that the Kaneland board wants to do away with the existing salary schedule.
Targeting step-based salary schedules seems to be a coordinated effort on the part of Illinois school boards in current bargaining.
They got the memo.
Simply put, a step-based salary schedule is one in which teachers’ base pay increases each year.
The schedule also includes additional compensation for earned degrees, training and professional development.
As a result, the only compensation that needs to be bargained is additional cost of living increases and changes to benefits.
Why does this work for teachers and school districts?
In the private sector, an employee with similar experience and education can increase their earnings as a result of promotion and job title.
This is not true in teaching unless the teacher leaves the classroom to become an administrator.
That was never my ambition.
Encouraging teachers to leave the classroom is not a good idea when schools are facing a teacher shortage.
Some ask why a teacher should be paid more just based on experience and educational degrees.
That is because in teaching, like many things, experience counts.
For most of us who go into teaching it takes a while to know what the questions are.
Forget about knowing the answers right away.
In spite of what fast-track boot camps like Teach for America say, there is no short cut to good teaching and no greater value to a school than a core of experienced teachers.
That is what a step-based salary schedule contributes to.