What Will Teacher Raises Buy Students?

New York Times

By Matthew Kraft

Democratic presidential candidates have generated headlines with multibillion-dollar plans to raise teacher salaries. Kamala Harris set the bar by proposing to give public school teachers an average raise of $13,500. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are among the major candidates that have since followed suit, both announcing ambitious platforms to elevate the teaching profession at town hall meetings.

These lofty, well-meaning proposals are sure to pay dividends for presidential hopefuls jockeying for the endorsement of teacher unions and the votes of a growing number of Americans who support increasing teacher pay. Seventy-eight percent of the public agrees that teacher salaries are too low. Support for increasing their pay jumped to 49 percent from 36 percent, in the wake of widespread teacher strikes in the past couple of years.

But if our ultimate goal — as parents, students and voters — is to improve student outcomes, then an across-the-board raise for teachers is not the best approach, nor will it address the structural issues that have eroded the status of the teaching profession.


A raise for the millions of current public school teachers isn’t a bad idea. But, as with many progressive hopes, it needs a bit more focus. More targeted plans with lower sticker prices — higher minimum salaries for new teachers and bonuses for teaching hard subjects and at struggling schools — would likely be more sustainable and politically effective ones.