Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill to ensure that all public school teachers earn a wage that is at least $60,000 per year and increases over the course of their career.
The Pay Teachers Act would require states to establish a minimum teacher’s salary of $60,000 per year and significantly increase federal investments in teachers and public schools.
Sanders says it is unacceptable that many teachers in the richest country in the world are working two or three extra jobs to make ends meet. In 36 states, the average public school teacher with a family of four qualifies for food stamps, public housing, and other government assistance programs.
“The situation has become so absurd that the top 15 hedge fund managers on Wall Street make more money in a single year than every kindergarten teacher in America combined – over 120,000 teacher,” Sanders said.
“If we are going to have the best public school system in the world, we have got to radically change our attitude toward education and make sure that every teacher in America receives the compensation that they deserve for the enormously important and difficult work that they do.”
More than half of public schools in the US report feeling understaffed, while the starting pay for teachers in nearly 40 percent of school districts is less than $40,000 per year.
Forty-three percent of all public school teachers make less than $60,000 per year, and hundreds of thousands of public school teachers have to work two or three jobs during the school year to make ends meet.
The pandemic has only worsened the situation, with the historic staffing shortages disproportionately affecting schools serving students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.
Recent studies show that K-12 public school teachers were the most likely to report higher levels of anxiety, stress, and burnout during the pandemic.
The Pay Teachers Act has garnered support from more than 50 major organizations, including the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
Sanders says the bill is a necessary federal investment to help sustain the teaching profession and provide greater opportunities for students.