Stacey Abrams has unveiled a new plan to raise teacher salaries in Georgia if she is elected governor as part of her initiative to invest in the future of education in the state.
Abrams, a Democrat and voting rights advocate, announced the plan as she accepted the endorsement of the Georgia Association of Educators on Sunday. She pledged to raise the base salary for teachers from the current baseline of about $39,100 to $50,000, and to raise the average teachers’ salary from about $60,500 to $73,500 during her first term as governor.
The $1.65 billion four-year plan would be financed using existing revenue within the state’s budget, Abrams said, without tax raises. If implemented, the plan would move Georgia into the top 10 states for teacher salaries, up from 35th nationally.
“Investing in our students is essential to building One Georgia in which all of us can move up and move forward. But students face an uncertain future — about 3 in 10 Georgia teachers report they are unlikely to remain in the profession five years from now,” she wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “To invest in students, we must invest in educators.”
The plan goes further than that of Republican incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, who in 2018, just before that year’s election, announced a $5,000 increase in teacher salaries over his current term. The final raise of $2,000 to round out the plan is set for fiscal year 2023, Kemp announced earlier this year — though, according to some experts, it’s possible that not all teachers will see the $2,000 raise, which Abrams pins on Republican education cuts.
The raise proposed by Abrams is double the one implemented by Kemp; on Sunday, the Democrat said the governor’s raise was an “election year gimmick.” In past months, Abrams has criticized Kemp for cutting nearly $1 billion from the state K-12 budget in 2020, and Republicans for cutting more than $10 billion over the past 20 years. In contrast, Abrams pledged on Sunday to be the “public education governor.”
“It is important to remember that we aren’t starting from the Cadillac. We are starting from the tricycle,” Abrams said. “Because under Republicans, they took money away from our teachers, they decreased their pay, year-over-year in terms of real dollars.”
Georgia Association of Educators President Lisa Morgan praised Abrams’s plan, saying that teachers in the state are “underpaid.”
“Adjusted for inflation, our educators are making less now than they did in 1999,” Morgan told reporters. “We have to attract the best and brightest to be educators. This requires our profession be attractive as a career. It’s not just about salaries. It’s about educators being treated as the professionals they are.”
Kemp is planning on continuing his and the GOP’s attacks on education if reelected; in April, Kemp signed a set of hateful education-related bills that will restrict the way educators can teach about race, bar transgender children from participating in school sports, and ban books that have been challenged by parents, which will likely include books related to race or LGBTQ topics.