Presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris proposed a huge pay raise for American teachers on Tuesday, her latest bid to set herself apart from the crowded Democratic field vying to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.
Her plan comes as teacher protests for higher pay and better benefits continue to break out across the country, including in Harris' home state of California. The lawmaker is proposing:
- An average $13,500 pay raise for every teacher in the United States
- Additional salary funding for teachers in high-need American schools to prevent teacher turnover
- Department of Education and state education agencies working to set a base salary for teachers: the federal government would invest 10 percent of funding needed to close the teacher pay gap in every state
- Incentivizing states to pay the rest: For every $1 states invest in increasing teachers' salaries, the federal government would provide $3 until the pay gap is closed
- A multibillion-dollar investment into programs that recruit, train and develop teachers, with half of that funding designated to programs at historically black colleges and universities and other institutions that serve minorities
- The investment in education would be paid for by strengthening the estate tax on wealthy Americans, but Harris' campaign did not specify how much it intends to increase the estate tax
The senator is widely considered one of the top contenders for the Democratic nomination in 2020. The first contests of the primary season are just under a year away, but candidates are already trying to stake claims to positions as they woo voters in key states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has set much of the pace on the policy front.
Harris' campaign calls the teacher pay and education funding plan as "the largest investment in teachers in American history" and estimates it would cost about $315 billion over 10 years.
The campaign says teachers earn 11 percent less than people in similar professions, citing an Economic Policy Institute figure. It also claims that eliminating the teacher pay gap and investing in the education system could add up to $2.3 trillion to the economy, citing a figure from management consulting company McKinsey & Company.
But not everyone is on board with increasing teachers' salaries so dramatically.
Some critics claim increasing pay for teachers will reduce the number of available jobs for applicants, as fewer teachers leave their positions. They say that though the applicant pool for teaching positions will grow if salaries are raised, the quality of the candidates will decline as potential teachers become discouraged by their inability to find a job.
Critics also claim that increasing salaries can be burdensome on taxpayers, as states seek a source to pay for the raises.
Harris' office did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.