Friday, September 27, 2019

Cory Booker Introduces Legislation to Increase Teacher Compensation

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced legislation that would put more money back in the pockets of educators and help diversify the teaching workforce. The compensation of educators in 30 states across the country is below a family living wage and after adjusting for cost of living, teacher salaries declined in New Jersey and 38 other states from 2010 to 2016. Future teachers are heavily influenced by teacher pay when considering whether to become teachers or not, making it increasingly difficult to attract and retain effective, diverse candidates. This legislation would make educators eligible for at least $1,000 tax credits and as much as $11,500.

Through refundable tax credits, the Respect, Advancement, and Increasing Support for Educators (RAISE) Act will help boost the compensation of early childhood, elementary, and secondary school teachers. Depending on the level of poverty in their school, public school teachers would be eligible for a tax credit up to $10,000. The bill would also double the educator tax credit, which teachers can use to offset the cost of school supplies.

“America’s teachers are constantly being asked to do more and more without any significant increase in their compensation, and often at their own expense,” Booker said. “Educators are the unsung heroes of our society, but they cannot feed their families or pay their bills with heroism—they need and deserve our support. This legislation would allow us to use the federal tax code to put more resources back in teachers’ pockets and help attract diverse candidates to the noble profession.”

Diversifying the teaching workforce and increasing teacher compensation are top priorities for Booker. Earlier this Congress, he introduced the STRIVE Act, which would overhaul the student loan forgiveness program by providing incremental loan forgiveness each year to public school teachers in low-income schools.

Specifically, the RAISE Act would: 
  • Create a refundable $10,000 tax credit for public elementary and secondary teachers in high poverty public schools.
    • Public elementary and secondary school teachers in schools serving 75 percent or more students in poverty are eligible for the full tax credit. The value of the tax credit declines by percentage point for teachers between 74 percent and 50 percent poverty.
  • Create a refundable $10,000 tax credit for early childhood educators with a bachelor’s degree and an $8,000 credit for those with an associate’s degree in high poverty early childhood centers.
    • Early childhood educators in centers serving 75 percent or more students eligible for the Child Care and Development Block Grant or the child and adult care food program are eligible for the full tax credit. The value of the tax credit declines by percentage point for early childhood educators in centers with between 74 percent and 50 percent poverty.
    • Provide all teachers, regardless of the level of poverty in the school in which they teach, with a $500 refundable tax credit.
    • Increase the educator tax credit—a credit specifically to offset the cost of school supplies—from $250 to $500 and as much as $1,500 for educators in the highest need schools.

    During my classroom years back-to-school shopping meant scouring the school supplies sales for the best bargains that I could afford to pass along to my students,” Donna M. Chiera, President of American Federation of Teachers New Jersey, said. “Today, I see dedicated educators reaching into their own pockets to make sure their students have what they need when parents are unable to send them properly equipped and our schools are starving because educational funding is lacking. Teachers stand up for their students when the system has failed and this legislation assists in mitigating the financial strain on teachers. This investment is a strong first step in the journey of funding the educational future of our nation and I thank Senator Booker for introducing and championing it.”

    “The RAISE Act recognizes what we have known for too long--educators are underpaid for the work they do and the value they bring to our students, our schools and our nation,” Marie Blistan, President of New Jersey Education Association, said. “In a time where educators dig into their own pockets to buy school supplies and to help students and struggling families, we must do more to attract and retain talented educators.  We applaud Senator Booker for bringing attention to this problem and for offering a crucial first step towards finding a solution.”

    “We are pleased to see this bill include support for early childhood educators, who currently earn less than $15 per hour, despite the critical role they play in young children’s development,” Simon Workman, Director of Early Childhood Policy at the Center for American Progress said. “This tax credit will help lift the early childhood workforce – made up predominantly of women – out of poverty, ensuring that they can support their own families while providing the high-quality early childhood education that working families rely on.”

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