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Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson has announced a plan to increase the minimum K-12 teacher salary to $60,000.
As the Chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee, Wilson believes the increase will provide adjustments for inflation and support ongoing state efforts to provide competitive wages for teachers and address the national teacher shortage.
“Teachers deserve a raise. Our nation’s teachers have been underpaid, overworked, and deprived of resources for too long. That’s why I’m filing the American Teacher Act today, to give our nation’s teachers the raise they have earned and deserve,” said Congresswoman Wilson.
“Teachers are the backbone of our education system and economy, playing a foundational role in the development of our children. For seven hours a day, they help shape and inspire young minds as well as nurture students academically and socially. As the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill, teachers continued to play a critical role in our recovery, underscoring their indispensability. I am proud to introduce the American Teacher Act, a critical first step in the fight to support a livable, competitive wage for America’s educators.”
Nonprofit organization Teacher Salary Project assisted Wilson in drafting the bill, which is co-sponsored by former educator Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and seven other members of the House.
Teacher raise bill introduced attention in Congress
According to the National Education Association, the average starting teacher salary for 2020-2021 was $41,770, an increase of 1.4% over 2019-2020. When adjusted for inflation, this represents a 4% decrease from 2019-2020, undoing all the gains made over the previous two years.
A report released by nonprofit think-tank, the Economic Policy Institute, shows that the teacher wage gap reached an all-time high in 2021. Compared to their peers in similar professions, teachers suffer from pay equity earning, on average, about 77 cents on the dollar compared to their peers in similar professions.
As a result, the United States is experiencing what some are calling a teacher shortage with an estimated 36,500 vacancies in the field.
Public school educator, activist and social media influencer Nicholas Ferroni calls it a “teacher exodus” not a shortage. “It’s become the perfect storm of teachers at a breaking point,” says Ferroni, who teaches high school history and cultural studies in New Jersey. “Nobody is going into the profession. People are leaving the profession, and society is realizing teachers can transition to other jobs.”
While the bill is expected to receive pushback in Congress, if passed it will create a four-year federal grant accessible to states and local educational agencies to guarantee the higher wages but will not affect the salaries of those already making $60,000 or more.