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Kamala Harris wants to give public school teachers a big raise.
The California senator and 2020 presidential candidate has released plans to increase teachers’ salaries in what her campaign is deeming the largest-ever U.S. investment in teacher pay.
The Harris campaign projects that the average teacher would see a $13,500 raise — a 23 percent base-pay increase — in Kamala’s first term. That would cost about $315 billion over the course of a decade, which Harris plans to finance with a now-typical method for 2020 Democrats: taxing the rich by strengthening the estate tax. Harris said that for every dollar a state invests in teacher pay, the federal government will invest $3.
“We must acknowledge this simple truth: We are a country that claims to care about education, but not so much about the education of other people’s children,” Harris wrote in a Washington Post op-ed detailing her plan. “At the most fundamental level, our children are being raised by two groups of people: families and teachers. Yet, we fail to pay teachers their value.”
“We will pay for this plan by increasing the estate tax for the top 1 percent of taxpayers and cracking down on loopholes that let the very wealthiest, with estates worth multiple millions or billions of dollars, avoid paying their fair share,” Harris said.
It’s perhaps Harris’s first unique policy proposal as a presidential candidate, and it comes at a time when teacher pay has become a national conversation. A wave of teacher strikes swept across both red and blue states in 2018 over pay, benefits, and the privatization of public education through charter schools. Approximately 378,000 education services workers went on strike in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an enormous explosion from just the previous year. (For comparison, just 25,000 workers altogether participated in major work stoppages in 2017.)
Harris called the surge of teacher strikes a reflection of our “national failure” to properly compensate public-school educators.
Education workers and experts praised Harris’ plan.
“I’m declaring to you that by the end of my first term, we will have improved teachers’ salaries so that we close the pay gap,” Harris said Saturday at a rally. “Because right now, teachers are making over 10 percent less than other college-educated graduates and that gap is about $13,000 a year. And I am pledging to you that through the federal resources that are available, we will close that gap.”
As of 2017, the average teacher salary in the U.S. clocks in at about $59,000, though in some states like Mississippi and South Dakota that number is closer to $40,000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Cover: Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit, Friday, March 1, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)