MEDIA ADVISORY: HELP Committee to Hold Hearing on Addressing the Crises Facing Public School Teachers in America

WASHINGTON, June 18 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, on Thursday, June 20 at 9:00 a.m. ET, will lead the committee in a hearing titled, “The Immediate and Long-Term Challenges Facing Public School Teachers: Low, Pay, Teacher Shortages, and Underfunded Public Schools.”

“If we are serious about the need for a bright and hopeful future for America, we must understand that there is no more important job in our country than educating our young people,” said Chairman Sanders. “And yet, for decades, public school teachers have been overworked, underpaid, under-resourced, and under-staffed. Incredibly, the average public school teacher in America is making lower wages today than he or she did 28 years ago after adjusting for inflation. The situation has become so absurd that 4 hedge fund managers on Wall Street make more money in a single year than every kindergarten teacher in America – nearly 120,000 teachers. That should not be happening in the United States of America in the year 2024. Public school teachers should not be forced to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet. They should not be forced to apply for food stamps or public housing because they are not paid enough to feed their families or put a roof over their heads. If we are going to attract the best and brightest young people into teaching, encourage teachers to teach in underserved communities, improve teacher retention and morale, and improve student academic outcomes, then yes: We have got to pay teachers in America decent wages and decent benefits. And that means no teacher in America should make less than $60,000 a year. If we can afford to provide over a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the top one percent and large corporations, we can afford to make sure that every teacher in America is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

Low salaries, lack of support, and burnout have contributed to low teacher retention and declining student outcomes across the U.S. Today, nearly 30 percent of U.S. school districts pay their teachers a starting salary of less than $40,000 a year. In the 2022-2023 school year, the average starting teacher salary was $44,530. While salaries vary across and within states, a 2020 study found that the average public-school teacher with a family of four qualifies for food stamps, public housing, and other government assistance programs in at least 38 states. Approximately 8 percent of teachers leave the profession every year, double the rate of Finland, Singapore, and Canada. Within five years, that number jumps to 44 percent.

Last year, Sanders introduced the Pay Teacher Act, legislation that would begin to address the major teacher pay crisis in America, triple Title I funding, and ensure that all public school teachers earn a livable and competitive wage that is at least $60,000 a year and will continue to increase over the course of their careers.

What: Senate HELP Committee Hearing titled, “The Immediate and Long-Term Challenges Facing Public School Teachers: Low Pay, Teacher Shortages, and Underfunded Public Schools”
When: Thursday, June 20, 9:00 a.m. ET
Where: Room 562, Dirksen Senate Office Building. The hearing will also be livestreamed on the HELP Committee’s website.

  • Mr. John Arthur, Teacher, Meadowlark Elementary, Holladay, UT
  • Mr. Gemayel Keyes, Teacher, Gilbert Spruance Elementary School, Philadelphia, PA
  • Dr. William E. Kirwan, Vice-Chair, Maryland’s Accountability and Implementation Board, Rockville, MD
  • Mr. Robert Pondiscio, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute, Medusa, NY

Ms. Nicole Neily, President and Founder, Parents Defending Education, Arlington, VA