By Sheri Williams
Members of the California Federation of Teachers gathered at the Capitol to announce an effort to raise salaries of teachers and classified staff by 50 percent over the next seven years.
The measure is meant to address what CFT President Jeff Freitas called a “staffing crisis” in California schools.
“AB 938 is a big and bold idea, but that is exactly what is necessary to tackle this problem. Because our teachers and classified professionals deserve a wage that enables them to build a long and successful career in our schools. And our students deserve educators who are not stressed and strained and at the end of their rope, but solid on their feet, focused, and working together to give them the education they deserve,” said Freitas in a statement. “We need real solutions to keep educators and classified professionals in our schools and attract new and diverse talent to the field.”
The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, who is also chair of the education committee. Muratsuchi said that the low wages of teachers compared to other fields that require a similar amount of education is preventing new teachers from entering the field.
“Two-thirds of young adults recently surveyed cite pay as one of the top three reasons of why they are not interested in going into the teaching profession,” Muratsuchi said at a press conference introducing the bill. “We need to close this wage gap.”
The measure, Assembly Bill 938, would increase funds given to each district through the Local Control Funding Formula. While it doesn’t impose a mandate, the bill’s intent is for those funds to be used to increase the salaries of all types of school employees.
The bill passed its first committee hearing after the press conference, with many CFT members testifying about its need.
Elena Royale, a special education teacher in San Francisco shared with the committee, “Our school has found it almost impossible to recruit teachers and paraprofessionals. In fact, it has gotten so bad that we have two paraprofessionals teaching classes this year even though they don’t have credentials. To meet the letter of the law, one teaches in the library, with a credentialed librarian present in the room who is not directly involved in instruction. And in my school alone, because of intense pressure and the high cost of living, 11 staff are going to leave my school next year, about half of the entire school. Seeing incredible educators leaving is heartbreaking, but it is going to devastate our students right when skilled educators are needed most.”
“We need to pay our teachers and essential school staff what they deserve,” said Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi during the hearing. “Schools across the state are facing a workforce shortage, with many teachers and school employees unable to afford to live in the communities they work in.”
“The teacher and staff shortage crisis has a direct impact on student achievement. Across the state, school districts continue to struggle to recruit and retain teachers in large part because they are not fairly compensated for the work, time, effort and emotional commitment they give their students each and every day. We commend the members of the committee for their support today,” added E. Toby Boyd, CTA President.
AB 938 now heads to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.