Listen to this article here
A new bill proposed by Florida congresswoman Frederica Wilson could change the face of public education in America. Wilson, a veteran Democrat in the US House, has introduced legislation that would help states raise starting teacher pay to $60,000 a year. If passed, the bill would create grant funding through the US Department of Education. Individual states could choose to opt in to the program to unlock funding to raise the pay of teachers in their state.
As a condition of the funding, states would have to commit to yearly salary increases that kept up with the cost of living.
Lagging teacher pay, coupled with right-wing attacks, are creating dire situation in US schools.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, teachers make an average of 14% less than their peers. That gap has only widened over recent years. A 2021 study by the Teacher Salary Project highlighted the impact of these disparities. In a survey of more than 1200 teachers nationwide, 82% had reported working more than one job at some point in their teaching career. Over half of survey respondents were currently working a second job.
Stress for teachers was only exacerbated during the pandemic when educators were tasked with juggling remote learning and student safety. That stress has only increased with right-wing attacks on public education and the teaching profession.
These stressors, coupled with lagging teacher pay, have driven educators from the profession in droves. The Wall Street Journal reported that more than 300,000 teachers left the profession since the beginning of the pandemic.
Pay disparities, Wilson notes, are leading to increased vacancies and worsening outcomes for students across the country. These wage gaps disproportionately affect Black teachers, especially Black male teachers.
In an interview with ABC News, 2021 Texas Teacher of the Year Eric Hale underscored the urgency of the moment and the need for bills like Wilson’s $60,000 teacher pay legislation to pass.
Hale said prospective teachers are looking at pay and rising costs of living and are forced to ask themselves: ‘Will I be able to provide for my own family? Will I ever be able to own a home?”
“That’s a tough sell for a savvy student who can go into any other industry and look at making twice, three times as much as a teacher,” Hale said.