Should teachers earn $100,000? Movement to get teacher salaries on par with California lawmakers

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Judith Klinger used to be a trial lawyer before she became a classroom teacher for 23 years.

There's no question as to which job is harder.

"Teaching in a classroom is even harder work," she said. "It's grueling and the demands are physically and mentally relentless."

Klinger is now president of the teachers union, the Alameda Education Association, where her staff is among the lowest paid in Alameda County. A first-year teacher in Alameda earns $47,000 but if he or she pays for the least expensive family insurance plan, the take-home pay is $31,000 a year.

And so she is in full support of a proposal being pushed by California Trust for Public Schools, an educational fundraising organization, which is collecting signatures and donations for a new initiative measure called The Teacher Fair Pay Act.

The effort aims to put teacher salaries on par with leaders in Sacramento.  "In no case shall a full-time teacher, who has been issued a clear credential by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, be paid less than a non-leadership member of the California State Legislature," the language reads."

The measure would would require that credentialed teachers get paid the same as lawmakers who typically earn $107,000 each year. The state's teachers currently earn anywhere from $41,00 to nearly $93,000, according  to the California Department of Education. 

Getting the measure on the November 2018 ballot will require 365,880 signatures. It will then be up to voters to approve a two-cent hike in the sales tax to pay for the salary increase.

"If we want the best and the brightest teachers in our classrooms, we have to pay competitive salaries," Marc Litchtman, founder of the nonprofit California Trust for Public Schools and the author of the measure said on Monday.

Lichtman added that his volunteer crew has been collecting signatures for weeks. The petition is due in about March. 

"No one has ever tried this before," Lichtman said. 

Kris Vosburgh, spokesman for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in Sacramento, said he there are so many pro-tax measures in the works that he wasn't ready to discuss this one until it was on the ballot. Typically, though, his group opposes new taxes.

Klinger said that these taxes would be well spent. It's imperative to pay teachers competitive salaries.

"Educators are the foundation of democracy," she said.