US Secretary of Education calls for higher teacher salaries and debt relief for colleges

WASHINGTON — Amid K-12 teacher shortages, book bans and attacks on critical race theory, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona during a meeting with reporters on Wednesday stressed the need for higher salaries to attract future educators to the profession.

Cardona also touted the Biden administration student debt relief announcement end of August. The White House has said President Joe Biden will forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for Pell Grant borrowers and up to $10,000 for all other borrowers with income below $125,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a household.

But Cardona acknowledged that the one-time student loan cancellation policy did not address the root cause of the student loan crisis, and “it won’t solve the long-term problems.”

Cardona spoke to reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor and as the Biden administration prepares to promote its successes ahead of the midterm elections.

Cardona said at the K-12 level, teacher salaries are a key issue.

“Look, we want to recruit students,” he said. “We have to make sure they don’t think, ‘Well, if I become a teacher, I have to drive Uber on the weekends, or I have to be a waitress on the weekends to make ends meet.’ This is unacceptable.

He pointed to Montana, where a National Education Association teachers’ union study published in April revealed that the average starting salary for teachers is $32,495, the lowest in the country. Cardona added that many teachers pay for school supplies out of their own pockets.

“If we really want to improve the profession, if we really want to improve education, we have to invest in our educators,” he said. “Investing in our educators is investing in our students.”

Although not all school districts are experiencing teacher shortages, and some shortages depend on the subject taught, there are 567,000 fewer educators in US public schools today than before the pandemic, according to a analysis by the NEA. And nearly every U.S. state has seen a decline in public education jobs, according to to research of Pew Charitable Trusts.

Cardona did not specifically address recent controversial state laws that prohibit teachers from teaching about racial or LGBTQ+ issues, such as parental rights in Florida education or the “Don’t Say Gay” law, or how conservative outlets like Fox News broadcast segments falsely accusing teachers of “predatory predation”.

Conservative activists and predominantly white parents also pushed the lie that schools teach critical race theory, an academic framework that says systemic racism is built into the legal system. Critical Race Theory is not taught in K-12 schools.

In many school districts there have been campaigns ban hundreds of books. The majority of these bans have targeted books written by authors who are people of color, LGBTQ+, black, and Indigenous, and feature characters from marginalized groups.

Recently, an Oklahoma teacher quit her job following a complaint from a parent after she told her students they could get a library card online from Brooklyn Public Library in New York City. Unbanned Project Books to access books banned by the school district.

Oklahoma Education Secretary Ryan Walters called on the state Board of Education to revoke his teaching certificate, according to NPR reports.

loan forgiveness

Regarding student debt, Cardona said policy initiatives the Department of Education is supporting to help ease the burden include increased Pell grants, reform income-based student loan repaymentrevamping the public service loan forgiveness program and providing more transparency to students and parents about the return on investment provided by attending a specific college or university.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program “forgives the remaining balance of your direct loans after you make 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer,” according to the Ministry of Education. website.

“You know, going to college and leaving $150,000 in debt and then getting a job that pays $35,000 a year isn’t enough,” Cardona said. “We need to give parents more information, transparency too, so they know which institutions they should consider for their children.”

Over 43 million Americans have student loan debt and the Federal Reserve estimates that total US student debt is over $1.75 trillion.

Tuition fees for higher education are largely set by local institutions councils such as a state board of education or the state legislature. According to Education Data Initiativewhich collects data and statistics on the American education system.

“I intend to bring college presidents to the table, to bring the associations that govern them or represent them to the table,” Cardona said.

Cardona said that one of the tools the Ministry of Education has to deal with high tuition fees is the college scorecardwhich provides students and prospective parents with data on college costs, graduation rates, and post-college earnings.

He said the federal government can also “provide support and funding to institutions that we believe provide an inclusive environment, but also provide a good return on investment.”

“And then maybe with these universities and colleges, we come up with different practices, working with our partners on the Hill to try to make sure that, you know, across the country, our universities are accessible to all. students,” he said.

Back to school visit

Cardona is about to start visit in which he and First Lady Jill Biden, who will be with them for the first two stops, will visit schools to show how communities are helping students recover and thrive after the coronavirus pandemic led to mass school closures. schools.

The first stop is in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Cardona and the First Lady will see how the state has worked to recruit and retain educators.

Analysis by the NEA, which influences democratic politics and lobbies at the state and national level on education policy, found that 55% of “educators now report that they are ready to leave the profession they love sooner than expected”, due to burnout. of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics in a 2018 study predicted that, over a decade, from 2016 to 2026, an average of 100,000 primary school teachers would leave the profession each year.

Cardona will also travel to Pennsylvania, where he and Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, Douglas Emhoff, will highlight how schools continue to help students recover from learning loss and receive mental health support, as well as to explain how teachers and administrations could benefit from debt relief. through the Civil Service Loan Cancellation Scheme.

He will also visit schools in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and New Jersey.

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