In her bid for the Democratic presidential nominee in the 2020 election, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, presented this week the first substantial plan of a presidential candidate that addresses nationwide educator advocacy, Chalkbeat reports. Her plan, which would be tailored to each state's pay gap between teachers and "similarly educated professionals," would raise teacher pay by an average of $13,500 a year and provide targeted funding to high-poverty schools that would up pay even more, Chalkbeat notes.
With public support of teachers increasing in the wake of teacher strikes, the plan has received support from leaders of two of the nation’s largest teacher’s unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. However, its hefty price of an estimated $315 billion in federal funds over a decade, in addition to a push for more state funding, is likely to be met with opposition — especially since it's not completely clear where the money will come from, Chalkbeat reports.
- University education leaders have said the plan is likely to benefit the teaching profession but needs tweaks. Dan Goldhaber, a professor at the University of Washington, feels salary hikes should be targeted more toward teachers in high-needs schools, beginning teacher pay and those teaching shortage subjects, while Allison Atteberry, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, said such widespread increases aren't feasible and should be more targeted.
The teacher strike in West Virginia last February was a catalyst for a new wave of teacher strikes. Teacher strikes and activism have gained national attention for more than a year and are expected to continue as states make decisions about education funding for the coming fiscal year. Though teacher strikes remain controversial, they have drawn attention to the issue of teacher pay and the challenges facing teachers and, as a result, have drawn increasing support from both sides of the political aisle.
As educators continue to go on strike, teacher pay has remained a constant point of contention. Increasing teacher salaries has been proven to correlate to attracting more high-quality teachers, boosting retention and spurring higher student performance, and proponents have argued that putting more resources toward educators demonstrates more appreciation for the profession.
An Ipsos/NPR poll published last April indicated that most Americans do not believe that teachers are paid fairly, and that three-quarters of respondents felt that teachers had the right to strike. A 2018 PDK poll also noted that 73% of Americans would support their local public school teachers in a strike for higher pay and that 66% believe that teacher salaries in their community are too low. A USA TODAY poll and an AP/NORC poll indicated similar findings of increasing support for more teacher pay.
With support for teacher pay increasing in many areas, the issue is set to gain more political significance as the next election nears. Teacher pay has already been a hot topic of conversation in the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor this year. While most teacher strikes have occurred in red states in the past, the issue has already had an impact on some recent elections and blue cities are being impacted now as well. More Republican-led states are already addressing the issue of teacher pay seemingly in response to the pressure and to gain political goodwill. And with Harris’s early plan to address the issue of teacher pay, other candidates will likely feel the need to come up with plans of their own as the next presidential primaries draw near.