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Illinois Chief Asks Master-Teacher Funds

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Springfield, Ill.--State Superintendent of Education Donald G. Gill has proposed a $3-billion budget for fiscal 1985 that includes a $19.6-million jump in funding for a master-teacher program.

The budget, which seeks an increase of $473 million, or 18.3 percent, over this year's appropriation, also calls for $4.6 million for the first year of a three-year plan to raise the average pay of beginning teachers from $13,300 to $22,500.

The powerful Illinois Education Association has expressed misgivings about the proposal because it targets only beginning teachers for pay raises. The association has taken no formal position on the master-teacher plan.

Mr. Gill's proposal, still to be considered by the state board of education, would increase spending on the master-teacher program from $637,500 this year to $20.3 million next year. The plan would define added responsibilities for those designated as master teachers and would extend the program to every district in the state. Five percent of the teachers in public schools would be designated as master teachers on the basis of state-developed criteria, Mr. Gill said.

The master teacher would continue teaching, but would also spend 20 percent of the day working with other instructors. The state would pay each master teacher a $2,500 salary supplement and would supply funds for substitute teachers to cover the release time. Mr. Gill estimated that 5,200 master teachers would participate in the program next year.

Justifying his proposal to raise the salaries of beginning teachers, Mr. Gill said: "A theme common to every major report on education issued in the past year is that beginning salaries for teachers are too low and not at all competitive with beginning salaries in other professional fields. It is in the state's interest to encourage and support substantially higher statewide average beginning salaries in order to remove an income barrier to those bright and able persons who would choose teaching as a career." He estimated that about 1,800 entering teachers would be eligible for the higher pay next year.

Mr. Gill's budget also proposes:

An increase of $144 million, or 10 percent, in general state aid to school districts. The $1.56 billion total is only 4 percent higher than the level of support three years ago, Mr. Gill stressed.

A $190-million increase in funds for the teacher-retirement system, which has been hit hard by past budget cutting.

An additional $2.1 million for a computer consortium, job training, and a technology-employment program.

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