WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers reintroduced the American Teacher Act on Wednesday, following President Joe Biden’s call to raise teacher salaries during his State of the Union address this week.
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) introduced the bill last year, and if passed, it would give states grants to increase the base salaries of K-12 teachers to $60,000. It would also require them to make cost-of-living adjustments to ensure the minimum salary keeps up with inflation.
“Teachers are heroes, and they deserve compensation,” Wilson said.
According to Center for American Progress, a progressive policy group, the average starting salary for a full-time teacher is $38,617. In addition, teachers are 30% more likely to work a second job than their counterparts in other professions.
Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, said there is no shortage of people who would like to guide and teach the next generation, but rather a shortage of professional pay and basic dignity for educators.
“Today, we find ourselves in what I call a five-alarm crisis of staffing shortages in all of our schools throughout the country,” Pringle said. “And I want to be clear; this isn’t a warning light or a maintenance required indicator on your car moment. This is the ‘engine is on fire, call 911 now’ moment.”
According to a research report, it is estimated that there are over 36,000 teacher vacancies nationwide, and supporters of the bill say non-competitive salary is a major contributing factor.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), a co-sponsor of the bill, called on far-right Republicans to help pass the legislation.
“Our teachers nurture the most precious resource in our country, which is our children,” Bowman said.
Biden’s call to raise teacher salaries during his State of the Union address appeared to receive bipartisan support through a standing ovation. Wilson said she was astounded by it and has plans to talk to potential Republican co-sponsors.