Congressman Schiff, Senator Booker Introduce Legislation to Boost Teacher Compensation
Today, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) joined Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Representatives John Larson (D-Conn.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), and Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) to introduce legislation to boost teacher compensation and diversify the teaching workforce.
The bill, called the Respect, Advancement, and Increasing Support for Educators Act, would provide educators with a minimum of $1,000 in refundable tax credits annually, with some teachers earning as much as $15,000.
“There’s no greater investment we can make in supporting children and families than supporting the teachers who dedicate their lives to caring for and supporting students,” said Schiff. “Teachers are the bedrock of our public education system – and they deserve fair compensation for the irreplaceable role they play in shaping America’s future. The RAISE Act would deliver long-overdue salary increases to early childhood, elementary, and secondary educators, helping ease the financial constraints that block quality teachers from entering and remaining in the profession. Educators hold the future of the nation in their hands, and it's past time we honored their service with the fair wages they deserve.”
Currently, public elementary and secondary teachers earn about 20 percent less than similarly educated professions. Based on a worldwide comparison, the average salary gap between teachers and others with comparable educational backgrounds is greater in the U.S. than in any other OECD country with available data.
Early childhood educators fare far worse, with a national median wage of $11.65 an hour, well below the national living wage threshold. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every state in the nation reported shortages of teachers in high-need subjects like science, math, special education, and English language development. Additionally, low income and students of color are the least likely to have access to a stable educator workforce, with nearly 50 percent higher teacher turnover rates in high-poverty schools.
Through refundable tax credits, the RAISE Act will help boost the compensation of early childhood, elementary, and secondary school teachers. Depending on the level of poverty in the schools educators serve, public school teachers would be eligible for a tax credit up to $15,000. The bill would also double the educator tax deduction, which teachers can use to offset the cost of school supplies, and expand eligibility to early childhood educators.
“Educators are constantly asked to do more and more without any significant increase in their compensation, and often at their own expense,” said Senator Booker. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these hardships, leading many teachers to leave the profession. This legislation would help support educators by using the federal tax code to put more resources back in teachers’ pockets. It’s time to reward our society’s unsung heroes by increasing teachers’ take-home pay.”
“As we recognize Teacher Appreciation Week, I am honored to introduce the RAISE Act alongside my colleagues today to increase teacher pay and do more to recruit and retain educators,” said Congressman Larson. “When I served as a public school teacher, it was not possible to make ends meet without working a second job. Today we are taking a step forward toward ensuring teachers are fairly paid for their work and contributions to society.”
“As a former public school teacher for 24 years, I know what a tremendous impact educators have on the lives of their students,” said Congressman Takano. “Teachers lay the foundation for a child’s education, and they didn’t waver from that responsibility even in the midst of a pandemic. They deserve to be paid for it. I’m proud to be introducing the RAISE Act with my colleagues to boost teacher salaries, reduce the teacher wage gap, and ensure a high-quality education for students of all ages. Together, we can support our teachers so they can continue inspiring our next generation of leaders and changemakers.”
“This Teacher Appreciation Day, we recognize the remarkable public servants who work to inspire students across our country each and every day,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “Teachers pour their hearts into educating the young minds that will lead our nation into a brighter tomorrow. Unfortunately, despite their incredible dedication to the profession, far too often educators are overwhelmed with financial burdens that force them to leave the classroom. Teacher pay has not kept pace with that of other professionals, leaving educators feeling woefully undervalued. From shrinking school budgets to overwhelming student debt, teachers are often faced with the difficult decision to leave a career they love just to pay their bills. The RAISE Act closes the wage gap for teachers and acknowledges them as the professionals they are. Supporting our teacher workforce makes our schools and communities stronger.”
Specifically, the RAISE Act would:
- Provide all eligible early childhood and K-12 educators with a $1000 refundable tax credit, regardless of the level of poverty in the school in which they teach.
- Create a refundable tax credit of up to $15,000 for eligible public elementary and secondary educators and for early childhood educators with a bachelor’s degree.
- Create a refundable tax credit of up to $10,000 for early childhood educators with an associate degree or a Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate.
- Encourage teacher recruitment and retention in under-resourced schools and communities most in need by utilizing a sliding scale for the tax credit, based on school and early education program poverty levels.
- Provide labor protections to prevent the tax credit from being used unfairly in labor negotiations.
- Increase the educator tax deduction from $250 to $500 to offset teachers’ purchases of school supplies, and expand eligibility to early childhood educators
- Provide at least $5.2 billion in annual mandatory funding for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s Title II (a nearly $3 billion increase), which supports educator recruitment, retention, professional development, and class size reduction, which can improve teaching and learning conditions.
- Create and fund a federal grant program to support and incentivize local educational agencies to increase teacher salaries, and provide related programs to strengthen, retain, and diversity the educator workforce.
The RAISE Act is cosponsored by Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Representatives Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr (D-Ga.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Joseph Morelle (D-N.Y.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Penn.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (D-Guam), Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.), and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.).
Click here to view the full text of the legislation.