Nation’s Largest Union Backs Sanders’ Call for Dramatic Teacher Pay Hike
WASHINGTON — The National Education Association is throwing its support behind independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ effort to pay public school teachers a minimum of $60,000 a year.
Sanders, chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on Thursday introduced the Pay Teachers Act, which in addition to establishing the $60,000 salary floor for teachers, would also significantly increase federal investments in teachers and public schools, including tripling Title I-A funding and funding for rural education programs.
The bill, and companion legislation reintroduced in the House, would also diversify and expand the teacher pipeline, according to a press release on the senator’s website, while “strengthening leadership and advancement opportunities for educators.”
Joining Sanders as cosponsors of the Pay Teachers Act are Sens. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Peter Welch, D-Vt.
The bill text can be read here.
A section-by-section breakdown of the bill can be found here.
A fact sheet compiled by Sanders’ office can be found here.
The House bill, known as the American Teacher Act, was reintroduced in the new Congress last month by Reps. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., and Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y.
While the support of the National Education Association was expected, it is nevertheless significant.
The NEA, which represents public school teachers and faculty and staffers at public colleges and universities, among others, is the nation’s largest labor union. According to its website, it now boasts some 3 million members.
In a written statement, NEA President Becky Pringle said the Teacher Pay Act is “a critical first step” toward ensuring “all students have the committed educators they need to thrive.”
“Students of every color, background and ZIP code deserve qualified and caring educators who are dedicated and have the resources to uncover the passions and potential of every child,” Pringle said.
Meanwhile, America’s schools, she said, “are facing a five-alarm crisis because of the educator shortages that have been decades in the making and exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Together, we must recruit large numbers of diverse educators into the profession and retain qualified and experienced educators in our schools to support our students in learning recovery and thriving in today’s world. To do that, we must have competitive career-based pay to recruit and retain educators,” Pringle continued, adding that the union is urging senators “to support educators and cosponsor this commonsense legislation that invests in our students, educators and public schools.”
Last year, the National Education Association released a white paper outlining what it said were ways to help mitigate the educator shortage currently impacting the nation’s public schools.
A nationwide survey by the NEA accompanying the paper’s release revealed that 55% of educators are considering leaving the profession earlier than planned.
“It is simply unacceptable that, in the richest country in the history of the world, many teachers are having to work two or three extra jobs just to make ends meet,” Sanders said in a written statement on Thursday.
“Wages for public school teachers are so low that in 36 states, the average public school teacher with a family of four qualifies for food stamps, public housing and other government assistance programs,” he continued.
“We have got to do better than that. It is time to end the international embarrassment of America ranking 29th out of 30 countries in pay for middle school teachers. If we are going to have the best public school system in the world, we have got to radically change our attitude toward education and make sure that every teacher in America receives the compensation that they deserve for the enormously important and difficult work that they do.”
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