FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 14, 2022
Congresswoman Wilson Introduces American Teacher Act to Incentivize $60,000 Minimum Teacher Salaries
Miami, Fla. – Today, Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee Chair Frederica Wilson (FL-24) introduced the American Teacher Act to incentivize states to increase K-12 teacher salary schedule to $60,000 and institute annual increases of educator salaries congruent with the rate of inflation. This financial incentive supports ongoing state efforts to ensure competitive wages for teachers. The legislation seeks to center education as a national priority and help address nationwide teacher shortages.
"Teachers are the backbone of our educational system and play a foundational role in the development of future generations. They are tasked with imparting skills and knowledge and shaping and inspiring young minds in their most impressionable years. This job became even more important as our nation reached a standstill and faced the unpredictability of a global pandemic." said Congresswoman Wilson. "I am proud to introduce the American Teacher Act, a critical first step in the fight to support America's educators. If we are serious about investing in the futures of our students, higher pay for educators must be a focal point of the conversation. These teachers deserve our gratitude, but most importantly, they deserve to earn a living wage, and it's time we fight for it."
"While teachers have never received the wages and respect commensurate with the work they do to help all children reach their promise and potential, the culture wars and stagnant wages of the last few years have made this worse. Recruiting and retaining a diverse teaching force has become increasingly difficult—indeed, most parents say they wouldn’t want their kids choosing teaching as a career,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “Rep. Frederica Wilson’s bill, the American Teacher Act, addresses these challenges directly by providing states with federal funding to incentivize school districts to create a minimum starting salary of $60,000 for teachers. It also funds a national campaign highlighting the value of the teaching profession and encouraging young people to become teachers, using many of the recommendations in the AFT’s Teacher and School Staff Shortage Task Force report “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?” for recruiting the best candidates into teaching, including increasing compensation. This bill says put your money where your mouth is. We thank Rep. Wilson for her bold legislation addressing the low starting salaries that have plagued the teaching profession for generations, and we are proud to support this legislation.”
“Students of every color, background and ZIP code deserve qualified and caring educators dedicated to connecting with them and given the resources to nurture their passions and potential. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the educator staffing crisis that had been brewing for more than a decade,” commented Becky Pringle, President of the National Education Association. “Fueled by insufficient teacher salaries and chronic underfunding of our public schools, our leaders need to immediately adopt solutions to the educator shortage, including treating educators with the respect and competitive compensation these dedicated professionals deserve. The American Teacher Act is an encouraging step forward, and NEA applauds Congresswoman Frederica Wilson for introducing legislation to enact long-term solutions to this longstanding, systemic issue.”
“Teachers are vital to our democracy and economy because we need them to maximize all young people's potential. We must take advantage of this moment—with the devastating learning loss and enormous and historic teacher shortages—to pay teachers what they are worth to us, to young people, and our shared future,” said Ninive Calegari, Co-Founder of The Teacher Salary Project. “Imagine what would happen if teaching were the sustainable and prestigious profession it deserves to be.”
Teacher shortages are among the most pressing threats to education access today, with districts across the country forced to radically adjust school offerings to respond to turnover and prolonged vacancies. Every day, stories surface of schools shortening their weeks, cancelling courses, increasing student-teacher ratios, and placing underprepared or temporary substitute staff in core instructional roles. Such adjustments disrupt learning, take a sustained toll on teacher morale and harm student achievement. In August, the White House issued a fact sheet renewing attention to the weak teacher pipeline and calling upon legislators to use federal, state, and local resources to strengthen teaching career pathways and ensure competitive, livable wages.
Failing to invest in our teachers properly perpetuates shortages by devaluing the profession and diverting current and prospective educators. Currently, the Economic Policy Institute reports an enduring pay penalty for teachers, meaning that those in the profession earn lower weekly wages and receive lower overall compensation for their work than their similarly college-educated peers. This penalty reached a record high of 23.5% for public school teaching in 2021, making it increasingly difficult for our nation to recruit, train, and maintain qualified educators. These concerns are even more significant among teachers of color, who are more likely to teach in schools with fewer resources.
The American Teacher Act centers education as a national priority and addresses teacher shortages by supporting states in better insulating teaching as a valued and viable career. The bill would authorize funding to support the following:
Grantees would be required to establish a statewide teacher salary schedule or otherwise with a minimum threshold of $60,000 and annual increases congruent with the inflation rate. This financial incentive supports ongoing state efforts to ensure competitive wages for teachers.
The American teacher Act is strongly supported by leading advocacy organizations, including the Teacher Salary Project, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), The National Education Association (NEA), The Education Trust, Teach for America, The New Teacher Project (TNTP) National Parent Teacher Association, Educators for Excellence, Council for Exceptional Children, Center for Black Educator Development, Alliance for Excellent Education, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Network of State Teachers of the Year, National Center for Grow Your Own, National Equity Project, Black Teacher Project, Teach.Org, Open Way Learning, The Million Dollar Teacher Project, American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, University of San Francisco School of Education, 826 Valencia, Tall Poppy, LLC, New Jersey Teacher Corps, Public Advocacy for Kids, Center for Curriculum Redesign, New Mexico Association for the Education of Young Children, Hispanic Association of College and Universities, American Consortium for Equity in Education, and San Francisco Coalition of Essential Small Schools.
To read the bill text for the American Teacher Act, click here.
Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson is a sixth-term lawmaker from Florida, representing parts of Northern Miami-Dade and Southeast Broward counties. A former state legislator and school principal, she is the founder of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a mentoring and dropout prevention program for boys and young men of color. Congresswoman Wilson also is the founder and chair of the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys and the Florida Ports Caucus, a bipartisan taskforce that coordinates federal action to support Florida’s harbors and waterways. The Florida lawmaker sits on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; chairs the Education and Labor Committee’s Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee and serves on the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee.