WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement after Sen. Kamala Harris announced her plan to close the teacher salary funding gap.
“Sen. Harris’ plan is a bold, smart, strategic and decisive proposal that will help make teaching a respected profession by paying teachers a living wage, while incentivizing diversity and high-quality teacher preparation. It will help fund our future by delivering urgently needed help to communities wracked by decades of austerity and underinvestment.
“For every teacher in America and for the 91 percent of kids who attend our public schools, this is one of the most thoughtful initiatives we’ve seen in years. Sen. Harris is making sure that if we say teachers and education are important, we actually treat them that way. While Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos have slashed programs and pushed a federal budget that makes the situation worse, Sen. Harris has crafted a concrete commitment to make things better.
“It’s become increasingly obvious to anyone who cares about education that teachers are bearing the brunt of the disinvestment in public schools: They are paid, on average, 24 percent less than other college graduates. Their overall compensation, including health and pension benefits, is 11 percent less than that of similar professionals. Twenty-five states still spend less on K-12 education than before the 2008 recession. And study after study has shown teachers feel disrespected and isolated from their professional peers.
“Teachers want what students need—and paying teachers a living wage is a commitment to our students’ futures, backed by legislation, not just words and rhetoric. Sen. Harris’ intervention spells out the clear choice faced by all 2020 candidates: whether to invest new resources, or revert to the failed top-down, test-and-punish mentality of decades past.
“Crucially, her plan will supplement, not supplant, state funding and will reward states for increased investment. And it will help address the national teacher shortage. New data out today from the Economic Policy Institute show that crisis is even more acute than previously estimated, with high-poverty schools most affected.
“This proposal will directly address these problems and drive the national conversation about education policy. From West Virginia to California, teachers have shown just how important education investment will be for presidential candidates who want to honor the public’s priorities. We hope other 2020 candidates will follow Sen. Harris’ lead.”