Kamala Harris wants to give Iowa teachers a $12,200 raise, she says in University of Iowa visit

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris outlined her goal to give Iowa K-12 teachers a $12,200 raise during her University of Iowa town hall Wednesday.


Katina Zentz

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks during a town hall at the IMU on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Harris is running for president in the 2020 election. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Julia DiGiacomo, Politics reporter

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., laid out her plan to raise Iowa teacher salaries Wednesday evening during her first presidential campaign stop at the University of Iowa.

She also reiterated a wide range of her other campaign proposals, which include investing in education, health care, and action to address climate change.

Harris described teachers as an undervalued and underpaid profession despite their role in raising America’s children. She proposed to increase Iowa K-12 teacher salaries by $12,200 per year. She said the initiative would be the first of its kind at the federal level.

“I believe you can judge a society based on how it treats its children,” Harris said to a packed crowd of 915, per the Harris campaign, at the Iowa Memorial Union. “And so then we know one of the greatest ways a society can make an expression of love for its children is by extension to invest in teachers.”

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Harris said teachers are paid 10 percent less than similarly educated college graduates. As a result, she said she has met many teachers across Iowa who work two or three jobs to pay their bills. She said $12,200 would make a significant dent in paying for groceries for a year or paying off student loan debt.

Iowa teachers currently receive the eighth highest salaries in the nation when adjusted for cost of living, according to a 2016 report. The average salary was $54,416, which amounted to $60,868 with Iowa’s cost of living factored in.

Issues of equality were also central to Harris’ campaign speech Wednesday. She addressed the issues of racism, sexism, and other intolerances and said that equal opportunity needs to be restored to all Americans.

“Anyone who is the subject of hate should never be made to fight alone,” she said.

Harris also announced her goal to raise the national minimum wage to $15 per hour, decrease the cost of prescription drugs, and establish an up to $6,000 tax credit for families who make less than $100,000 per year.

The April 10 town hall at the IMU marked Harris’ third campaign tour of Iowa since announcing her presidential bid nearly eight weeks ago. Other candidates, such as Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke have also utilized the IMU as a campaign venue this year.

Harris has raised $12 million in her first fundraising period according to her campaign, trailing only Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders who raised $18.2 million.

Harris has represented California in the U.S. Senate since 2017. She also formerly served as San Francisco district attorney and California’s attorney general.

UI junior Lesley Mcnaughton said she’s interested in hearing Harris address the issue of mass migration and of people being detained at the border.

She also said she appreciates Harris’ initiatives related to education and teacher wages, since she has witnessed a family member pay out of pocket to support their students.

“We need to invest in education,” Mcnaughton said. “That’s one way we can push public health and improve as a nation.”

UI education major Ryleigh Fredericks said she’s learned that teachers don’t go into education for the money but rather to see their students succeed.

“It’s important to invest enough in our teachers for the sake of the children in our country,” she said.