candidate Sen. Kamala Harris has a bold plan to increase pay for
teachers. The California senator's $315
billion, 10-year proposal is
a timely and sensible policy for a nation that must commit more
resources to public school teachers and address inequality in US
education. However, Harris' plan also makes for an astute political
strategy for the presidential contender, allowing her to make inroads
among core Democratic constituents who represent the energy and
direction of the party heading into 2020.
proposal amounts to an average of $13,500 or a 23% increase in salary
for each teacher. The federal
would pay the first 10% to states to fill the teacher pay gap, then
invest $3 for every $1 the states contribute. The Harris plan would
also invest billions in evidence-based programs to boost teacher
with half of the funds going to historically black colleges and
universities and other minority-serving institutions, who, research
produce 30% of black teachers, and 40% of Latinx
to the plan, an increase in the estate tax for the top 1% of US
taxpayers would pay for the measure.
Harris plan is a good policy solution for a crisis in public
education. While crucial to our children, teachers do not earn their
worth, and many cannot
afford to live
in the communities they serve. "Teachers are angels among us.
They are the people who inspire our children to be powerful citizens
and leaders," Harris said in an email message to supporters and
in a post
on Medium. "We all know the stories of teachers who spend extra
hours after school lifting up students who have fallen behind, or the
teachers who spend their own money on much-needed school supplies.
Public school teachers earn 11% less than similar professionals,
teachers are more likely than non-teachers to work a second job, and
the average teacher makes $1,000 less than 30 years ago."
suffer as the cost of living increases and teacher
teachers do not earn a living wage for a family of four. One million
teachers -- 40% -- are
by Social Security. According to the US Department of Education, 94%
of public school teachers pay an
$479 for school supplies without reimbursement, sometimes upwards of
$1,000. Americans overwhelmingly
teachers' salaries are too low, and many are willing
higher taxes to boost their pay.
must do better by its teachers, as other countries do. The average
elementary school teacher in the United States starts out at around
$39,000 with a top earning potential of around $70,000, according
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data.
However, elementary school teachers make a top rate far exceeding
those numbers in Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg. And while a US
high school teacher begins at $40,517 and may earn up to $70,900,
that teacher would earn as much as $84,185 in South Korea, $84,469 in
the Netherlands, $109,240 in Switzerland and $138,279 in Luxembourg.
Harris' push is also a smart political move, as sliding salaries have
the country for better pay and smaller class sizes. These strikes are
ground zero in a new
national labor movement,
energizing working people after years of union decline. And teachers
are front and center in the resistance to education
-- including austerity measures, unregulated charter schools and
vouchers that divert money from public education to private schools
-- and Trump
teachers and school profiteers are drawing the battle lines. Under
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a billionaire former education
lobbyist who has
push for public
the White House calls for a cruel and draconian 12%, $7.1
to the Department of Education. The budget would slash student loans
and public service loan forgiveness, school
safety and mental health services,
after school programs in low-income communities and grants for
counselors, equipment and textbooks. The budget increases charter
school funding by $60
and features an Orwellian-named "education
initiative which would provide $5 billion in tax credits to allow
children to attend private school.
as a Howard
Harris' hat tip to HBCUs and other majority of color institutions
reflects an unabashedly black-identified
-- in contrast to Obama's
run for president.
For all the scrutiny she faces over her criminal
and whether she is "black
Harris' policy proposal should appeal strongly to black
-- a crucial Democratic bloc in a nation where demographics and
notions of the face of leadership are changing.
country should be judged by how it treats its children, and the
adults who are charged with educating those children and cultivating
young minds. Sen. Harris' teacher pay raise moves the policy debate
in a positive direction, which is great politics, too.
commentary was originally published by CNN.com