With national attention on addressing staffing shortages across public education, a bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker offers one sound approach to make entering and remaining in the profession more attractive.
The RAISE Act, which stands for the “Respect, Advancement, and Increasing Support for Educators” Act, introduced in 2022, lets educators keep more of their hard-earned money by providing refundable tax credits of up to $15,000 per early and K-12 educator. The bill also doubles the educator tax deduction to $500 to help offset the money that teachers inevitably spend out of their own pocket each year on supplies for their classroom and students.
“Educators are constantly asked to do more and more without any significant increase in their compensation, and often at their own expense,” Booker said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these hardships, leading many teachers to leave the profession. This legislation would help support educators by using the federal tax code to put more resources back in teachers’ pockets. It’s time to reward our society’s unsung heroes by increasing teachers’ take-home pay.”
Despite their essential role in supporting students to engage in our democratic society and to flourish individually, compensation is not commensurate with educators’ critical responsibilities and required skills. According to research by the Economic Policy Institute, public school educators on average earn about 20% less than similarly educated professions. That’s why it’s critical for bills like the RAISE Act to become law to help level the playing field.
The refundable tax credits would be provided on a sliding scale, with a base of $1,000 per educator up to $15,000 for those in high poverty school districts. By being refundable, this ensures that the educator will receive the entire credit, regardless of the amount of tax owed in any given year.
The bill also provides NJEA-supported language to respect collective bargaining and ensure that the tax credit cannot be used unfairly in labor negotiations. The bill would also provide a $3 billion annual increase in funding for recruitment, retention, professional development, class-size reduction initiatives.
The bill is an important step in attempting to rectify the pay inequities suffered by educators both in New Jersey and across the country. NJEA, along with NEA, supports the bill and hopes to see it move in the new Congress.