In Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris, teachers will have an ally in the White House if Democratic Party’s Joe Biden wins the presidency in November. During the presidential primaries, Kamala Harris ran on the platform of promoting teachers’ interests. Harris proposed a 10 year $ 315 billion nationwide federal teacher salary funding that would have radically boosted teacher wages. Kamala Harris’ teacher pay raise plan, the most expensive and ambitious federal education funding program in US history seeks to increase the average teacher’s salary by $ 13,500, the equivalent of a 23 percent increase in base pay.
“We are a country that claims to care about education, but not so much about the education of other people’s children. 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,” Senator Harris wrote in a Washington Post article.
In the first phase of the policy’s implementation, the federal government will release 10 percent of the funds to states to bridge the funding gap. Additionally, the federal government will incentivize states by remitting $3 to states for each $1 a state contributes towards salary increase until teacher pay gap is entirely closed. Harris’ move excited restless teachers who had been campaigning for better wages in recent years.
Teachers throughout the country are demanding for not only higher salaries but better equipped classrooms, better working conditions, and manageable teacher- student ratios. Teachers in Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona, Colorado and Kentucky had staged class workouts which despite attracting widespread public support, neither led to major shifts in federal government’s nor states’ policies regarding teacher’s pay making Harris policy proposal welcome news.
Teachers argue that in spite of their demanding jobs, their profession is the least paid in the country. According to Economic Policy Institute- adjusted to inflation-today teachers earn $ 1000 less than they did 30 years ago- and earn 11 percent less than other similar professionals who hold college degrees. The National Education Association (NEA) and American Federal of Teachers (AFT) who combined have close to 5000 members, well aware the challenges of seeing through a policy of such magnitude, cautiously welcomed the Harris proposal. AFT President Rand Weingarten called the proposal bold. “She actually understands that we have a real problem. Parents are saying they don’t want their kids to become teachers,” Weingarten said.
Harris’ proposal is a strong repudiation of President Trump’ policies that have cut funding to public education. Education cabinet secretary Betsy Davos proposed a 13 percent or 60 billion transfer of public funding to charter school, eliminated many after school activities for poor needy students, and limited funding for mental health programs in public schools.
In a past Washington Post article, Harris wrote; “Inside our schools, nothing is more important to the success of a child than a teacher. For me, that was my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Francis Wilson. She helped spark my love for learning and became a lifelong mentor and friend. She attended my law school graduation.”
Senator Harris who has previously been endorsed by The National Education Association (NEA) and American Federal of Teachers (AFT) members when she ran for the State Attorney of California understands the voting power of teachers and other union workers. The senator also knows that the teaching workforce is dominated by female teachers and minorities such as African Americans and Hispanics who Biden will be courting for support.
By Benard Manyibe. Manyibe writes for EduMonitor, a leader in K-12 learning resources that teachers and parents use to help their students succeed.