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Nearly 8 in 10 Voters Support Sanders Bill to Raise Minimum Teacher Pay to $60k

New polling finds that majorities of voters across the political spectrum support the idea.

Denver teachers, students and community members picket outside South High School on February 11, 2019, in Denver, Colorado.

New polling finds that a proposal by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) to set a minimum salary for teachers and raise the wages of over a million teachers nationwide is overwhelmingly popular among voters.

According to a recent survey of 1,254 likely voters by Data for Progress, 77 percent of voters support the proposal to set a nationwide minimum salary of $60,000 for public school teachers, while only 18 percent say they oppose it. This includes nearly half of respondents, or 45 percent, who said that they “strongly” support the idea.

The proposal is even popular across the political spectrum: it is supported by 88 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of independents and 67 percent of Republicans, the polling found.

Sanders introduced the proposal in the Senate last week. It would raise the salaries of 43 percent of public school teachers across the country and would work toward solving problems of low teacher morale and teacher shortages.

“It is time to end the international embarrassment of America ranking 29th out of 30 countries in pay for middle school teachers,” Sanders said. “If we are going to have the best public school system in the world, we have got to radically change our attitude toward education and make sure that every teacher in America receives the compensation that they deserve for the enormously important and difficult work that they do. No public school teacher in America should make less than $60,000 a year.”

The Pay Teachers Act has seven Senate cosponsors, including Senators Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). Lawmakers in the House introduced similar legislation in December.

However, despite the fact that the majority of Americans across the political spectrum support the proposal to set a minimum teachers’ salary, the proposals have very little chance of passing Congress, with Republicans and conservative Democrats more interested in keeping wages low across the board.

The legislation comes at a time of crisis for teachers and public education. The pandemic has exacerbated already existing teacher shortages, while teachers are facing relentless attacks from far right activists seeking to destroy public schools and severely restrict what teachers are allowed to discuss in the classroom in order to serve the right’s anti-LGBTQ, racist goals. Meanwhile, the number of school shootings are reaching record highs.

Teacher pay is a major contributor to the crisis. Adjusted for inflation, the average weekly wages of teachers have increased only $29 from 1996 to 2021, while the average weekly wages of other college graduates has risen by $445 in the same period of time, research by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found.

This has exacerbated an already sizeable wage gap between teachers and comparable college graduates. This gap has reached a record high — in 2021, teachers’ weekly pay was on average 24 percent less than other college graduates, up from a gap of 6 percent in 1996.

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