H. R. 882
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
February 8, 2023
Ms. Wilson of Florida (for herself, Mr. Bowman, Mr. Thompson of Mississippi, Ms. Adams, Mr. Takano, Mr. Evans, Mrs. Cherfilus-McCormick, Ms. DeLauro, Ms. Pressley, Ms. Sewell, Mr. Johnson of Georgia, Ms. Norton, Ms. Tokuda, Mr. Carson, Ms. Blunt Rochester, Ms. Jackson Lee, Ms. Velázquez, Mrs. Sykes, Ms. Williams of Georgia, Mrs. Watson Coleman, Mrs. McBath, Mr. DeSaulnier, Mr. Courtney, Ms. Sherrill, Ms. Clarke of New York, Mr. Kim of New Jersey, Ms. Moore of Wisconsin, Ms. Tlaib, Mr. Ruppersberger, Ms. Stevens, Mr. Cleaver, Mr. Grijalva, Ms. Lee of California, Mr. Cuellar, Ms. Brown, Mr. Landsman, Mr. Moskowitz, Mrs. Foushee, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Mr. Thanedar, Ms. Bonamici, Mr. Gottheimer, Mr. Clyburn, Mr. Pocan, Ms. Wild, Ms. Dean of Pennsylvania, and Mr. Lieu) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce
To provide grants to State educational agencies to support State efforts to increase teacher salaries, and for other purposes.
This Act may be cited as the
American Teacher Act.
Congress finds the following:
Teachers are the backbone of our nation, from the first bell to the last bell, they act as caregivers, counselors, role models, advocates, and cheerleaders, helping children achieve their greatest potential.
What is more, teacher shortages are among the most pressing threats to education access today, with districts across the country forced to radically adjust school offerings to respond to turnover and prolonged vacancies. Every day, stories surface of schools shortening their weeks, canceling courses, increasing student-teacher ratios, and placing underprepared or temporary substitute staff in core instructional roles. Such adjustments disrupt learning, take a sustained toll on teacher morale, and harm student achievement.
The teacher wage penalty, characterizing lower weekly wages and overall compensation for teachers compared to college-educated peers in other professions, hit an all-time high of 23.5 percent in 2021 and continues to demonstrate significant, adverse impacts on teacher recruitment and retention. According to a recent report by the Teacher Salary Project, over 90 percent of teachers believe low salary contributes to shortages in their communities and over 45 percent believe their salary is insufficient for medium and long-term career sustainability.
Significant numbers of teachers report maintaining multiple jobs to make ends meet or being able to work in their profession only through the support of a partner’s higher-paying job. This instability is worse for teachers of color who are more likely to work in under-resourced schools. As a result, high-poverty communities face a compounded burden.
In August of 2022, the White House issued a fact sheet renewing attention to the weak teacher pipeline and calling upon legislators to use federal, state, and local resources to strengthen teaching career pathways and ensure competitive, livable wages. This statement accompanies efforts by twenty-five states to propose and enact legislation addressing teacher compensation since January 2021.
To restore stability in our schools and secure equitable access to high-quality education, we must raise awareness surrounding the value of teaching as a profession and provide compensation that reflects this value.
Grants to support State efforts to increase teacher salaries
Teacher salary incentive grants
The purpose of this section is to ensure that each teacher who is employed full-time at a qualifying school in a State earns an annual salary for any year of employment of not less than $60,000 (adjusted for inflation).
Grants for minimum salary threshold
From amounts made available to carry out this section, the Secretary of Education shall award 4-year grants to State educational agencies.
To be eligible to receive such a grant, the State educational agency shall submit an application to the Secretary at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Secretary may require, including—
the plan required under subparagraph (C); and
the assurances required under subparagraph (D).
The Secretary shall require a State educational agency submitting an application under subparagraph (B) to provide a plan that demonstrates how, following the conclusion of the 4-year grant period, such agency will continue to maintain and adjust the annual base minimum salary in accordance with subsection (b).
The Secretary shall require a State educational agency submitting an application under subparagraph (B) to provide an assurance in such application that—
if necessary to achieve the purpose of this section, the State will enact and enforce legislation to establish a statewide teacher salary schedule or otherwise to establish minimum teacher salary requirements;
each teacher described in paragraph (1) will be compensated on a salary basis at an annual rate per school year that is not less than the salary threshold described in subsection (b);
each teacher who is employed part-time at a qualifying school in a State will be compensated on a salary basis at an annual rate per school year that is not less than the salary threshold described in subsection (b), proportionately reduced in accordance with the number of hours worked by such teacher;
priority will be given to local educational agencies in accordance with subparagraph (E)(ii); and
the State educational agency will, upon request by the Secretary, carry out the compliance demonstration in accordance with subsection (c)(3).
A State educational agency awarded a grant under this section shall use not less than 85 percent of the grant funds to award subgrants to local educational agencies to carry out the purpose of this section.
The State educational agency, in allocating funds to local educational agencies under this section, shall give priority to local educational agencies—
serving greater numbers or percentages of elementary or secondary schools receiving funds under title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 6301 et seq.); or
with respect to which all of the schools served by the local educational agency are designated with a locale code of 41, 42, or 43, as determined by the Secretary.
For school year 2024–2025, the base minimum salary dollar amount shall be $60,000.
For school year 2025–2026 and each succeeding school year, the dollar amount referred to in paragraph (1) shall be deemed to refer to the dollar amount calculated under this subsection for the preceding school year, increased by a percentage equal to the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers published by the Department of Labor for the most recent calendar year.
No salary limit
The base minimum salary dollar amount may be greater than the dollar amount described in paragraphs (1) or (2).
Supplement, not supplant
Grant funds received under this section shall be used to supplement and not supplant other Federal, State, and local public funds that would, in the absence of such Federal funds, be made available for teacher base salaries.
Maintenance of effort
A State educational agency or local educational agency shall not reduce or adjust any teacher pay or State teacher loan forgiveness program due to the eligibility of teachers within the jurisdiction of such agency for pay supplementation under this section.
Compliance demonstration to Secretary
Each State educational agency and local educational agency, upon request by the Secretary, shall demonstrate that the methodology used to allocate teacher pay and State teacher loan forgiveness (if applicable) to teachers and qualifying schools ensures that each such teacher and school receives the same State and local funds for teacher compensation it would receive if this Act had not been enacted.
Grants for adjustment of teacher salaries
From amounts made available to carry out this section, the Secretary of Education shall award grants to eligible State educational agencies to provide, in accordance with subsection (c), cost-of-living adjustments to the annual base salary of such State and the annual salary of each teacher who is employed full-time at a qualifying school in such State.
To be eligible to receive such a grant, the State educational agency shall submit an application to the Secretary at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Secretary may require, including the demonstration required under subsection (d)(2).
The annual base salary of the State and the annual salary of each teacher described in subsection (a) shall be increased by a percentage equal to the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers published by the Department of Labor for the most recent calendar year.
Eligible State defined
In this section, the term eligible State means a State—
with an annual base salary of not less than $60,000 for teachers who are employed full-time at a qualifying school; and
that demonstrates in the application submitted under subsection (b) that, due to inflation, such State is unable to adjust such base salary or the annual salaries of such teachers for cost-of-living.
Enhanced awareness of the value of teaching profession
The Secretary may reserve not more than 4 percent of the funds appropriated under section 8 to carry out a national campaign—
to increase awareness about the importance of teachers and the value of the teaching profession;
to encourage secondary school and college students to consider teaching as a professional career; and
to diversify the pool of individuals who enter the teaching profession.
Rule of construction
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to alter or otherwise affect the rights, remedies, and procedures afforded to school or local educational agency employees under Federal, State, or local laws (including applicable regulations, court orders, or requirements that local educational agencies negotiate or meet and confer in good faith) or under the terms of collective bargaining agreements, memoranda of understanding, or other agreements between such employers and their employees.
In this Act:
The terms elementary school, local educational agency, secondary school, Secretary, State, and State educational agency have the meanings given such terms in section 8101 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7801).
The term qualifying school means, with respect to any school year, a public elementary school or a public secondary school.
The term teacher means an individual who—
is a teacher of record who provides direct classroom teaching (or classroom-type teaching in a nonclassroom setting) in a qualifying school for not less than the normal or statutory number of hours of work for a full-time or part-time teacher over a complete school year (as determined by the State in which the school is located);
meets the applicable requirements for State certification or licensure, as applicable, in the State in which such school is located and in the subject area in which the individual is the teacher of record; and
possesses skills and knowledge needed for effective classroom practice, including with respect to demonstrating the ability to improve student learning.
Teacher of record
The term teacher of record means a teacher who has—
been assigned the responsibility for specified pupils’ learning in a grade, subject, or course as reflected on the school’s official record of attendance;
learned and developed extensive teaching and basic classroom management skills; and
demonstrated the ability to plan and deliver instruction to students from different cultural backgrounds and with different learning styles and to assess and support student learning.
Authorization of appropriations
There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act such sums as may be necessary for fiscal years 2024 through 2028.