Newly signed legislation increasing the Illinois State Minimum Wage to $15 per hour could have a major impact on the Edwards County School District.

David Cowger, superintendent of schools, addressed the change with he Edwards County Board of Education Monday night during the board’s February regular session. At the time of the meeting, the legislation had passed both the House and Senate of the General Assembly, but had yet to be signed by new Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.

Pritzker signed the bill Tuesday morning.

Cowger began by stating that another proposed law, one which would raise the minimum salary for teachers to $40,000 per year, would have a minimal effect on the district, going so far as to speculate that the district’s contributions to the Teacher Retirement System may be included in the calculation of salary, making the district already in full compliance with the yet-to-be passed bill.

However, the superintendent did explain that the general minimum wage increase could prove costly for the district.

“The next one, the minimum wage increase that’s proposed, that would have a major impact to our school district,” said Cowger. “I understand, the way the law is written, that’s going to be rolled out in different phases, so we wouldn’t be hit with that financial burden all at one time.

“But if it was to be rolled out today, and we had to bring everything up, in a full 12-month school year, that would be $131,000, the hit that we would take.”

Cowger noted that the additionally incurred costs could halt the gains made by the district financially since the conclusion of the two-year budget impasse that saw former Republican Governor Bruce Rauner square off against the largely Democratic General Assembly.

“That would be a large, large chunk of change,” he said. “We’re talking about the adequacy levels of schools, being funded at a higher level; that would set us back.

“Some of the progress that we have made, that would definitely, it would hurt.”

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