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Democrats Target Teacher Pay as Part of Their 'Better Deal' Platform

In a joint op-ed published Tuesday in USA Today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) unveiled the latest plank in the Democratic Party's "A Better Deal" platform: higher pay for teachers and more resources for schools.

"Education is the catalyst for economic mobility; it puts the rungs on the ladders of opportunity," Pelosi and Schumer wrote. "We need great teachers in every classroom so that our children have every opportunity to succeed.... In our view, teachers' pay should much more closely reflect their value to our society."

The proposal calls for $50 billion of funding to increase teacher compensation (and "recruit and retain a strong, diverse workforce"), $50 billion of funding for school infrastructure and resources, additional supports for high-poverty schools, protections for teachers collective bargaining rights, and funding for special education. These initiatives would be paid for by "revisit[ing] the Trump tax cuts for the top 1 percent," though no additional details were provided.

The policy proposal comes on the heels of sustained teacher protests throughout the United States: in West Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Colorado. In most of these states, teachers are protesting low pay and benefits cuts as well as state-level education funding cuts that affect students and other school staff.

When Democrats first released their "A Better Deal" platform last summer, many were skeptical that the messaging would successfully capture the attention of working-class Americans. The party continues to come under fire for its struggle to advance an intelligible economic and policy message. By yoking its platform to a popular, grassroots movement with a demonstrated ability to unite across the political divide, however, the Democratic Party may have identified a message with staying power.