Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a new proposal to vastly increase teacher pay using the federal tax code. The proposal’s release comes on the heels of several months of teacher strikes across the country that have shone a light on the critical state of teacher compensation in the United States, as well as on the same day as the American Federation of Teachers kicks off its annual national conference.
The CAP proposal aims to narrow the pay gap for teachers in high-needs schools. It would give teachers as much as a $10,000—or roughly $190-per-week—raise using the federal tax code. This permanent, refundable tax credit would ensure that all eligible teachers would see a significant increase in take-home pay that is not subject to annual appropriation negotiations. The report also addresses preserving and increasing state and district funding levels under this plan.
Teachers earn only 60 percent of what their counterparts in other professions requiring similar education and experience make. In fact, average teacher salary in 30 states is below a family living wage. While teacher pay is a problem for all teachers, teachers in low-income schools make less than their peers in more affluent schools.
“Low teacher pay is a national problem that requires a national policy response,” said Neera Tanden, CAP president and CEO. “It threatens student outcomes, hurts districts’ efforts to hire and retain quality instructors and improve teacher diversity, and leaves educators unable to make ends meet.”
“From West Virginia to Arizona, the public agrees that teachers deserve the same dignity and respect afforded to other professionals,” said Meg Benner, senior consultant at CAP and co-author of the report. “This proposal would allow teachers to be able to stay in the jobs they love and increase student outcomes.”
After adjusting for cost of living, teacher salaries declined in 39 states from 2010 to 2016. The situation could get worse, not better: The Supreme Court’s recent Janus v. AFSCME decision will make it harder for teachers to bargain for better wages, and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could have a devastating impact on states’ and districts’ ability to invest in education through local tax revenue.
Read How to Give Teachers a $10,000 Raise by Meg Benner, Erin Roth, Stephenie Johnson, and Kate Bahn.
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.741.6292.
What others are saying about the proposal:
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers:
The wave of teacher walkouts this spring made it clear that educators don’t get paid appropriately for the job they do. Despite that, and despite many working second and third jobs to make ends meet, most teachers still spend their own money on classroom supplies. In 38 states, the average teacher makes less today than they did nine years ago—tax credits are one way to help ease that burden, but so are wage increases and fully funding public education. We thank CAP for raising the critical issue of teacher pay, and we look forward to working together on solutions that benefit teachers, their students, and our public schools.
Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association:
This year’s teacher walkouts make clear that parents, students, community leaders, and business leaders all support significant increases in teacher pay. For more than a decade, states and districts have disinvested in teacher pay, hurting both teachers, students, and schools. Creative proposals like this would help reverse this trend and ensure teachers can focus on educating our students, not making ends meet.
Evan Stone, co-founder and co-CEO of Educators for Excellence:
If you are a student of color or from a low-income family, there is a good chance your teacher is less experienced or underpaid. While all children deserve an excellent educator, students in underrepresented communities have inequitable access to our most effective teachers. This tax credit plan is a key component of a comprehensive strategy necessary to recruit, support, and retain good teachers for the students who need them most.
Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute:
Although research shows that teachers are the number one in-school factor affecting student achievement, we compensate teachers poorly in the United States, especially when they teach in low-income schools. To create a strong teaching force, we need to invest in our teachers the way so many other nations do. That means ensuring compensation that encourages them to enter and stay in the classrooms where they are most needed.