While lawmakers all over the country agree, largely, that teachers should be paid more they are left to argue on whose responsibility it is to pay them and how and what those raises may be. With inflation continuing to rise and an ongoing teacher shortage it is evident something needs to be done. Though teachers aren’t federal employees and so making laws on their wages is a hard area for many lawmakers to navigate. It hasn’t fully stopped lawmakers – yet.
Currently, the national median wage of a teacher, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, varied around $61,000 in 2021. Meaning that half were paid less and half were paid more though compensation can vary depending on the state and cost of living.
There have been multiple bills signed and drafted that could potentially change teachers’ wages soon.
Arkansas – LEARNS Act
Last week, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the LEARNS Act into law. This act included quite a bit of legislation, including increasing the minimum salary for public and charter school teachers in her state from $36,000 to $50,000.
Vermont – Pay Teachers Act
In Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders wants even more legislation. He introduced the Pay Teachers Act last Thursday and claims it would raise public school teachers’ salaries nationwide to $60,000 or even higher.
According to ABC News Sanders said,
“There is a major teacher crisis in America and we need to significantly attract more people into the teaching profession,” Sanders, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), told ABC News. “Probably the easiest — the fastest — way to do that is by raising the minimum salary to at least $60,000.”
Though another member of the HELP committee, Senator Mike Braun, R-Indiana, is in a sort of opposition to Sanders. Stating that while he supports the premise of the bill he would have it be more so tied to teachers’ performances rather than just throwing money at schools. Adding a large overhaul of the system and making pay raises more performance-based could incentivize individuals to join the profession and perform well in order to gain pay raises.
Florida – American Teacher Act
Florida D-Representative Frederica Wilson, a career educator, teamed up with Representative Jamaal Bowman, D-New York, a former principal, to bring their bill to the floor. Their bill would incentivize states to raise their minimum wage to $60,000 for public K-12 teachers through a grant program at the U.S. Department of Education as well as mandating yearly increases to compensate for inflation.
Though in their bill states would need to opt-in to the program and it would be federally funded. Which has caused some opposition.
Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, has said
“There are constitutional questions, but there are also logical questions about it…I think everyone would love for teachers to make more, but teachers don’t work for the federal government, so they should talk to their school boards and state legislatures.”
What is being done?
As of now the U.S. Department of Education has called for the COVID-19 pandemic relief money from the federal government to be used to temporarily increase teacher salaries until state-level action is taken.
Though states are still working on what to do.
Arkansas and Florida have both recently approved major bumps in teacher pay. Where last year Florida Governor Ron DeSantis boasted salaries to a $47,000 minimum. And in January he proposed another $1 billion raise.
Though some are still unsure about the $60,000 number. Unsure where this number is coming from and if it is enough or too much.
So will teachers make $60,000 nationally? It is yet to be determined.
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