To help address pay inequality for teachers amid their peers, Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez have co-sponsored a piece of legislation which would provide tax breaks to teachers while empowering development, retention, and recruitment programs.
“As we recognize teachers all across the nation who go above and beyond for their students this Teacher Appreciation Week, we must make sure our gratitude is paired with concrete action that will make a positive difference in their lives,” said Menendez.
Teachers across the country could get between $1,000 and $15,000 via refundable tax credits under the Respect, Advancement, and Increasing Support for Educators (RAISE) Act if enacted.
Apparent Pay Differentials for Educators
“That’s why I am proud to support this long overdue investment in our nation’s schools that will boost teacher compensation, diversify the teaching workforce, and level the playing field between teachers and other professionals,” continued Menendez.
The lawmakers said teachers at the elementary and secondary level earned about 20% less than similarly-educated professionals, and early childhood educators make a national median wage of $11.65 per hour.
Closing Salary Gap
“Educators are constantly asked to do more and more without any significant increase in their compensation, and often at their own expense,” said Booker.
Based on a worldwide comparison, the average salary gap between teachers and others with comparable educational backgrounds was greater in the U.S. than any other country.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these hardships, leading many teachers to leave the profession. This legislation would help support educators by using the federal tax code to put more resources back in teachers’ pockets,” said Booker.
“It’s time to reward our society’s unsung heroes by increasing teachers’ take-home pay.”
Stipulations Under RAISE Act
If enacted, the RAISE Act would provide all eligible childhood and K-12 educators with a $1,000 refundable tax credit, regardless of the poverty levels of the school in which they teach.
Additionally, a refundable tax credit of up to $15,000 would be established for teachers with a bachelor’s degree, and a refundable tax credit of up to $10,000 for early childhood educators with an associate degree or a Child Development Associate certificate.
In order to encourage teacher recruitment and retention in under-resourced schools, a sliding scale for the tax credit would be established. Additionally, labor protections would be established to prevent the tax credit from being used unfairly in labor negotiations.
Bicameral Bill Has Union Backing
The bill would also provide for $5.2 billion in annual mandatory funding for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s Title II, which focuses on educator recruitment, retention, and development, as well as class size reduction.
The proposed legislation is being offered in the House by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and has the support of national and Garden State teacher unions.
“The Raise Act…not only recognizes the commitment and dedication of our early childhood, elementary and secondary school teachers, it is a step towards addressing this problem,” said Donna M. Chiera, President, American Federation of Teachers New Jersey. “While giving tax credits doesn’t solve the underpaying of teachers, it will help with district’s recruiting and retaining efforts.”