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Baldwin, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Address Teacher Shortages in Low-Income and Communities of Color

On average, teachers are paid 23.5 percent less than college graduates working in nonteaching fields

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and a bicameral group of colleagues introduced the Retaining Educators Takes Added Investment Now (RETAIN) Act to address severe nationwide shortages of early childhood and K-12 teachers that disproportionately impact students from low-income backgrounds and students of color.

“Our public school teachers work tirelessly to fulfill our promise to ensure every child in America has access to high-quality education, regardless of where they live,” said Senator Baldwin. “Sadly, teachers are so often underpaid and overworked, especially in low-income communities. We are facing a teacher shortage that is breaking our promise to Wisconsin families. We have to do more to support our teachers, our children, and our future. Our RETAIN Act will help boost teacher pay, recruit skilled, compassionate teachers, and help Wisconsin kids get the high-quality education they need and deserve.”  

The RETAIN Act creates a fully refundable tax credit for teachers, paraprofessionals, mental health providers, and school leaders in Title I schools and for educators, program providers, and program directors in Head Start, Early Head Start, and Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funded early childhood education programs. The tax credit increases as these professionals become more experienced to incentivize retention.  

According to federal data, the average teacher salary in the 2021 to 2022 school year was $66,397—though this obscures lower pay in less affluent school districts, and when adjusted for inflation, the average teacher salary has declined by 6.4 percent over the past decade. The national median salary of early childhood educators was just $30,210, which is barely above the federal poverty line for a family of four.

Teacher pay is largely shaped by local tax revenue. To receive modest increases, teachers must obtain expensive graduate degrees—adding student loan debt that dwarfs the accompanying pay raise. Schools consistently struggle to attract and retain effective teachers who reflect the diversity of students, particularly with respect to African-American, Latino, and/or male teachers.

The legislation is also sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tina Smith (D-MN) and in the House, companion legislation was introduced by Representatives Brad Schneider (D-IL-10) and Haley Stevens (D-MI-11).

The following organizations support the RETAIN Act: American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, AASA - The School Superintendents Association, Advance CTE, All4Ed, American Association of School Personnel Administrators, American School Counselor Association, Association for Career and Technical Education, Association of Illinois Montessori Schools, Chicago Teachers Union, Council of Administrators of Special Education, Deans for Impact, Edifying Teachers, Education Leaders of Color, Educators for Excellence, First Five Years Fund, FourPoint Education Partners, Illinois Education Association-NEA, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Joint National Committee for Languages, KIPP Public Schools, Learning Forward, Montessori Public Policy Initiative, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of School Psychologists, National Council for Languages and International Studies, National Rural Education Association, New Leaders, Service Employees International Union, Teach for America, Teach Plus, Teacher Salary Project, The New Teacher Project, and UnidosUS.