On Dec. 14, 2022, a new act was introduced in the United States Congress by Representative Frederica Wilson, a Democrat from Florida.
The American Teacher Act, which was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor, promotes the increase of wages for American teachers. The legislation was also drafted by the nonprofit organization, Teacher Salary Project, which strives to assist teachers in becoming financially viable.
This act is a response to the current nationwide teacher shortage and decreasing morale of educators. If passed, the American Teacher Act could lead to an income of $60,000 a year. This is about a $20,000 increase from what public school educators are typically paid.
“Having a minimum wage of $60,000 is just the beginning of paying teachers what they are worth. Teachers are critical to our nation’s future,” said Dr. Peggy Yates who serves as an Assistant Professor and Director of Special Education Teacher Preparation at Alma College.
Dr. Yates has 25 years of teaching experience and acts as Vice President of the Alma Public School Board of Education.
“Raising the base pay is a step in the right direction, but so much more can be done to promote the importance of the profession across the nation,” said Yates.
“Of course, doing something about the teacher shortage in our country is critical right now, and the American Teacher Act is an important step in creating a better future for teachers and students alike,” said Katie Rooney, an Alma College alumna who graduated in 2022.
“Ultimately, I think the passing of the American Teacher Act would be a humongous leap forward in treating teachers like the invaluable humans they are,” said Rooney. Rooney also recently began her career as an elementary school teacher.
“Education is power, and teachers place that into the hands of our country’s future citizens – parents, politicians, influencers, innovators, etc… We should be paying teachers a comfortable living wage at the very least, and there is no reason teachers should have another stressor on our already overfilling plates,” said Rooney.
“As a second-year teacher, I make around $41,500 per year. I am constantly being told I am lucky to even make this much, while at the same time, I struggle to make ends meet and pay my bills,” said Jessica Headlee, a 2020 Alma College alum.
“This is a huge reason why I have two other jobs on top of my job as a teacher. I face disparaging burnout, financial struggles, loss of family time and lack of sleep every day because my career simply does not pay teachers what we are worth,” said Headlee.
“ There is a huge disparity here as you can see. It is clear that teachers are not valued as professionals since we are hardly paid as such.”
“Another benefit I hope for is that, if the American Teacher Act passes, hopefully, we will draw more qualified candidates into the field of teaching,” said Headlee. “I am aware of multiple teaching positions that have had to be filled by long-term substitute teachers. Is this really what is best for our students?”
“I think if this act were to pass, it would definitely shine [a] light on the profession and encourage people in America, especially college students, to consider going into teaching,” said Raegan Stambaugh (’23), an Alma College student in the process of her first semester as a student teacher.
“This bill would help to send a message and prove that teachers are a valued part of society,” said Stambaugh.
One thing many hope to see is how much further the income can be raised. “$60,000 will not go very far in bigger cities such as New York or San Francisco. It would be nice if they could even set the salary even higher,” said Stambaugh.
Whichever trajectory this new act will take, the surrounding conversation is certainly a step in the right direction.
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