WASHINGTON (Realist English). US Secretary of Education Miguel Cordona has called for teachers’ salaries to be raised as American schools struggle with widespread staff shortages at the beginning of the school year.
Cordona’s appeal came when the topic of staff shortages in schools became a new point of tension between Democrats and Republicans. This is the latest in a series of clashes on the topic of education — from covid restrictions and teaching the history of slavery 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 said in a conversation with CBS.
According to the National Education Association, the average salary of teachers in public schools was $65,293 in 2020-2021 — from $90,222 in New York to $46,862 in Mississippi.
While the Biden administration, many Democrats and teachers’ unions want local authorities to increase teacher salaries with funds allocated in last year’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, Republicans are calling for solving this problem by hiring teachers with limited qualifications.
In recent weeks, school districts across the country have reported that thousands of teacher vacancies remain unoccupied, although no national database has an exact number. Some educational institutions have reduced the school week to four days instead of five, struggling with staff shortages.
The shortage of teachers is associated with the fact that the US economy is experiencing very high demand in the labor market after the pandemic. In June, 10.7 million vacancies were opened in the US economy, which is slightly below the peak level of 11.8 million in March. Before the massive spread of coronavirus in February 2020, there were 7 million vacancies in the country.
Cardona stressed that low wages contributed to this. According to him, the teaching profession, college graduates earn, on average 33% less than other college-educated programs or other college-educated jobs.
“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.
States can use the American Rescue Plan dollars to bring back retired teachers, to work with universities to make sure that our student teachers are starting a little bit earlier into their profession, using the dollars that were put forward by the federal government. We think it’s important that our students get more this year, not less, Cardona said.