May 5, 2022
Today is Teacher Appreciation Day, a time when we take a moment to recognize and appreciate the critical role of teachers in preparing children and youth to participate in the workforce, engage in a civil society, and flourish as individuals.
In the past two years, this profession has been more difficult than ever. Teachers’ salaries in the United States have never truly been commensurate with their levels of education and skill or reflective of the challenges of teaching. Nor are they commensurate with teachers’ impact on our society and our democracy as the educators of our citizenry. But as teachers had to grapple with the multiple demands of remote learning and the psychological and physical impact of the pandemic, their work became more demanding than ever. Now that most schools have returned to in-person instruction, many teachers are struggling to help students make up for lost learning time.
For these and other reasons, the United States is experiencing a teacher shortage even more severe than it was before the pandemic. This shortage is most significant in high-need subjects like science, math, special education, and English language development. Naturally, students of color and students from families with low incomes are the most affected by teacher shortages. The teacher turnover rate in high poverty schools is nearly 50 percent higher than that in more affluent schools.
A new bill, introduced this week by U.S. Senator Corey Booker, would help reduce the teacher wage gap and help make teaching more lucrative and attractive. The Respect, Advancement, and Increasing Support for Educators (RAISE) Act of 2022 would provide a refundable tax credit of up to $15,000 for public school teachers and early childhood educators and encourage local jurisdictions to increase teacher salaries. The RAISE Act would also increase funding for educator recruitment, retention, professional development, and class size reduction in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
There has been much talk of late about how the pandemic has offered us an opportunity to “reset” education. Teachers are the most important school-related factor affecting students’ academic performance. As such, we need to ensure that we address the need to recruit, retain, and develop high-quality teachers in any reset of education. That means implementing practices and policies that recognize and treat educators as the professionals that they are.