03122019 Manar Teacher Min Wage Interview 650

Points to teacher minimum wage plan as one remedy

SPRINGFIELD – Without an increase to the teacher minimum wage and other changes to reverse Illinois’ teacher shortage, people should get comfortable with reports like one released this week showing the crisis is worsening, State Senator Andy Manar said today.

“Either you’re comfortable with the crisis, or you should be comfortable with changes in state policy to fix it. That’s a pretty easy choice,” Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said.

Manar is the sponsor of a plan to incrementally raise the minimum wage for teachers in Illinois to $40,000. The plan, which is meant to attract more young teachers to the profession, had bipartisan support last year but was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

According to a report released this week by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, 85 percent of schools surveyed are experiencing difficulty filling teacher positions – up from 78 percent in 2017. The shortage is worse in central and southern Illinois.

Furthermore, substitute teacher shortages are a serious problem at roughly 5 in 8 school districts. And a majority of superintendents indicated that vacant positions listed in the fall of 2018 remain unfilled or are being filled unqualified professionals. This resulted in 225 classes being canceled.

A total of 527 school districts responded to the survey.

“If we don’t change the course we’re on, it’s only logical that next year’s report is going to look worse than this year’s,” Manar said. “The first immediate thing we can do in Springfield to address this crisis is establish a livable base rate of pay for teachers and raise it incrementally.”

Manar said a higher minimum salary reflects the state’s respect and support for teachers, as well as the education required to be a teacher and the work they do in classrooms.

“We have to hold up the profession of teaching, we have to celebrate our teachers, we have to root for their success and we have to guarantee them a decent rate of pay when they start teaching,” he said. “A higher minimum salary will go a very long way to recruiting young people to fill these vacant classrooms that exist in nearly every downstate community today.”

03132019 Manar Rx rally 650

Legislation targets middle men who drive up costs to taxpayers, customers, pharmacies

SPRINGFIELD – Pharmacy middle men are driving up the costs of prescription drugs for customers and squeezing out rural pharmacies, all while putting taxpayers on the hook for greater costs, State Senator Andy Manar said.

The Bunker Hill Democrat is renewing his effort to impose state oversight on pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, that negotiate drug prices and benefits on behalf of insurance plans. This week he introduced Senate Bill 652. House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago) has introduced similar legislation, House Bill 465, in the House.

 “Delivery of health care to rural and underserved communities is at the heart of what this bill is about,” Manar said following a rally with hundreds of pharmacists at the Capitol on Wednesday. “If we don’t change the course we’re on, we’re going to have entire counties in downstate Illinois without a single pharmacist in operation. I’m very alarmed by what we’re seeing.”

Independent pharmacies – many of them small business owners in rural communities – say they are at a disadvantage and are being squeezed out of business because of PBMs’ practices.

03132019 Manar Rx rally 2

PBMs are largely unregulated and have not been subject to oversight, auditing or transparency laws in Illinois, even though they manage public money through the Medicaid program.

“If PBMs are allowed to carry on and continue stamping out competition and drive up prices, we have to expect there will be fewer small, local pharmacies as time goes on,” Manar said.

A recent audit in Ohio showed that PBMs made more than $224 million off the Medicaid program.

ALPLM350SPRINGFIELD – The director of the foundation that supports the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library would be appointed by the governor and subject to Senate approval under legislation proposed by State Senator Andy Manar.

“Frankly, I believe there needs to be a better relationship between the presidential library itself and the foundation that was established to support it,” Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said. “I think it’s time to re-evaluate how these two bodies work together, and this proposal is one way to do that.”

The presidential library foundation is a private, non-profit organization that was established to support the exhibits and programs of the taxpayer-supported Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. However, numerous reports have detailed a lack of cooperation and communication among the two bodies.

The presidential library and museum operate state under the umbrella of a state agency.

Currently, the presidential library’s board hires the foundation director. Under Manar’s proposal, the governor would nominate a director, and the nomination would go before the Illinois Senate for approval.

“It is my hope that having this nexus would improve the relationship between the two,” Manar said.

Manar hearing 350SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) released the following statement on efforts to establish a fair tax system for the people of Illinois:

“For more than a generation Illinois has lurched from one fiscal crisis to the next, in large part due to an outdated tax system that is unfair to the middle class. I applaud Gov. Pritzker for starting this long overdue discussion on how to stabilize our state’s budget. I look forward to working with him to ease the tax burden on 97 percent of working Illinoisans.”

 

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