Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a press conference with Senate Democrats on the House budget at the U.S. Capitol on March 1. He proposed a bill to raise the salary of teachers to a minimum $60,000 per year. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
March 9 (UPI) -- Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced on Thursday a bill to increase the pay of all teachers to at least $60,000 annually to address a country-wide shortage of educators.
Sanders, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said the legislation would allow all public schoolteachers to earn a livable and competitive wage that is at least $60,000 a year and increases over the course of their career.
In addition to requiring that states establish a minimum teacher's salary of $60,000, the Pay Teachers Act would require new federal investments in teachers and public schools, including tripling Title I-A funding and funding for rural education programs, along with diversifying and expanding the teacher pipeline and strengthening leadership.
Other senators who have signed on to the bill include Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M.; Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Alex Padilla, D-Calif.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; and Peter Welch, D-Vt.
"It is simply unacceptable that, in the richest country in the history of the world, many teachers are having to work two or three extra jobs just to make ends meet," Sanders said in a statement. "The situation has become so absurd that the Top 15 hedge fund managers on Wall Street make more money in a single year than every kindergarten teacher in America combined -- over 120,000 teachers.
"Wages for public school teachers are so low that in 36 states, the average public school teacher with a family of four qualifies for food stamps, public housing and other government assistance programs."
Sanders said the starting pay for teachers in nearly 40% of school districts is less than $40,000 a year. Forty-three percent of all public school teachers make less than $60,000 a year and hundreds of thousands of public school teachers have to work two or three jobs during the school year to make ends meet.
"We have got to do better than that," Sanders said. "It is time to end the international embarrassment of America ranking 29th out of 30 countries in pay for middle school teachers. If we are going to have the best public school system in the world, we have got to radically change our attitude toward education and make sure that every teacher in America receives the compensation that they deserve for the enormously important and difficult work that they do."
On Thursday, Sanders also rolled out a bill that would cap the list price of insulin at $20 per vial, following on the heels of Eli Lilly announcing a $35 monthly insulin cap.
"There is no reason why Americans should pay the highest prices in the world for insulin -- in some cases, ten times as much as people in other countries," Sander said.