Biden administration calls for higher teacher salaries to tackle shortages
US education secretary says schools will face constant recruitment problems without better pay ‘Unless we’re serious about providing competitive salaries for our educators . . . we’re going to constantly deal with shortage issues,’ said education secretary Miguel Cardona
US education secretary Miguel Cardona has called for teachers to be paid more as American schools grapple with widespread shortages at the start of the academic year.
Cardona’s appeal came as teacher shortages emerge as a new flashpoint between Democrats and Republicans. It is the latest in a series of clashes over education, from coronavirus curbs and the teaching of slavery and discrimination to mass shootings.
“Unless we’re serious about providing competitive salaries for our educators, better working conditions, so that they can continue to grow, and then including teacher voices in this process of reopening and reimagining our schools, we’re going to constantly deal with shortage issues,”
Cardona told CBS on Sunday. According to the National Education Association, the average teacher salary in public schools was $65,293 in 2020-21, ranging from a high of $90,222 in New York to $46,862 in Mississippi.
While the Biden administration, many Democrats and teachers’ unions want local authorities to boost pay for teachers using funds allocated in last year’s $1.9tn stimulus plan, Republicans are calling for the crunch to be solved by hiring educators with limited qualifications.
Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, eyeing a 2024 presidential bid, last week proposed bonuses for military veterans and first responders with no credentials if they decide to become teachers.
“Streamlining the regulatory and permitting and certification process — whether it’s teachers or manufacturers — that’s an opportunity that every state has,” John Sununu, the Republican governor of New Hampshire, said on Fox News Sunday.
“I love the concept. The country has workforce shortages. Let’s stop allowing government to get in the way of getting these people on the floors, in these classrooms,” he added.
In recent weeks, school districts across the country have reported that thousands of teacher positions remain unfilled, though no national database provides an exact number. Some have cut back the school week to four days instead of five as they grapple with shortages.
The lack of teachers comes as the US economy is experiencing very strong demand in the labour market since the pandemic. In June, the US economy had 10.7mn job openings, just below a peak of 11.8mn in March. Before coronavirus hit in February 2020, the country had 7mn.
Cardona stressed that low pay was contributing, saying teachers earned 33 per cent less than other jobs needing a college degree. “That’s unacceptable. In the last 25 years, when you adjust for inflation, teachers have made only $29 more than they did 25 years ago. We need to do better there. And that will address some of the shortage issues,” he added. Cardona will be the focus of attention this month on a different front as Joe Biden weighs whether to cancel some student loan debt for some Americans — a longstanding demand from progressives within the Democratic party and many younger voters. The White House has said he would make the decision by the end of August. “I will tell you that, daily, we’re having conversations about this, and the American folks will hear it before the end of the month,” Cardona said.