They're educating the next generation of Americans, but the nation's teachers are not paid well. Compared to teachers in other countries, or Americans in professions requiring similar levels of education, school teachers in the USA don't make much, and the rest of the country knows it. A 2018 poll showed two-thirds of Americans think the nation's teachers are underpaid.
Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris thinks so too, and she's making higher pay for teachers part of her campaign platform. "The people who are going to educate our children are our teachers, and for too long, they have been paid substandard wages," Harris said in an interview with CBS News this week. "The data is very clear, teachers are as compared to other college graduates, receiving 11 percent less in pay across the country."
Harris says she has a plan that would boost teachers salaries by about $13,500 a year. It would cost $315 billion over 10 years and would be paid for by ending tax loopholes for the country's wealthiest citizens.
The average salary for a public school teacher in 2016-2017 was $58,950, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, although some states, like Mississippi and South Dakota, skew much lower, at less than $43,000. New York and New Jersey pay the most, coming in at $79,637 and $69,623, respectively.
The reason for the large discrepancy in salaries between states is how education is funded. Most of a teacher's salary is coming from the state, but Harris' plan would see a much bigger chunk coming from the federal level.
Harris' plan to boost teacher wages is interesting, but according to that 2018 poll, 15% of the country thinks teacher wages are just fine, and 6% of Americans believe the nation's teachers are overpaid. But in some school districts, the schools can't even find teachers because the pay is so low, and in others, teachers are working second jobs to avoid having to go on food stamps, the New York Times reports.
And teaching is a so-called "pink profession," meaning more women than men are working as educators. Paying teachers more could help close America's wage gap.
Educating the next generation is a noble profession, and while Harris' plan will certainly attract criticism, it is getting people talking about a problem that is impacting our children, and could potentially impact our grandchildren, too: Polls show the majority of parents would discourage their children from becoming teachers because the pay is just too low.