AASPA Action Alert
Retaining Educators Takes Added Investment Now (RETAIN) Act (S. 686)
Senator Dick Durbin
Across the country, a severe shortage of qualified professionals exists among early childhood and K-12
teachers. Exacerbated by low pay, school leadership instability, and poor teaching conditions, the
shortage is worse in low-income communities. These same schools struggle to retain principals, early
childhood education (ECE) program directors, paraprofessionals, and mental health services providers.
Teacher pay has worsened in the past 20 years, and teachers in high-poverty schools are more
underpaid than teachers in more affluent schools. According to federal data, the average teacher salary
in 2019 was $64,470—though this obscures lower pay in less affluent school districts. The national
median salary of ECE teachers in 2019 was just $30,520 (qualifying many for the Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program). Teacher pay is largely shaped by local tax revenue, and to receive
modest increases, teachers must obtain expensive graduate degrees—adding student loan debt that
dwarfs the accompanying pay raise. Further, schools consistently struggle to attract and retain
effective teachers who reflect the diversity of students, particularly with respect to teachers who are
African-American, Latino, and/or men. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the teacher
shortage. In 2020, a survey by Horace Mann found nearly 27 percent of educators were considering
leaving teaching due to the pandemic. Similarly, a survey by the National Education Association
found 28 percent of educators were considering leaving—including 55 percent of teachers with more
than 30 years of experience.
The Need in Our Communities.
The teacher shortage disproportionately impacts students from low-
income backgrounds and students of color. High turnover rates of school leaders, such as principals,
and inconsistent access to mental health services providers, disrupts stability and compromises
necessary supports for teachers from their school administration. Teachers who leave do not
necessarily leave the classroom for a non-teaching job. Many experienced teachers move on to teach
in a more affluent school setting where the pay is higher, school leadership is well-established, and
necessary supports are already in place. While many factors inform teacher quality, teacher
effectiveness has been demonstrated to increase over time with classroom experience. As a result,
students with the greatest need are frequently taught by teachers with the least experience.
The Solution. The RETAIN Act creates a fully refundable tax credit for teachers, paraprofessionals,
mental health providers, and school leaders in Title I schools, and educators, program providers, and
program directors in head start, early head start, and CCDBG funded ECE programs. The tax credit
increases as these professionals become more experienced to incentivize retention.
• Years 1 – 2: $5,800
• Years 3 – 4: $7,000
• Years 5 – 9: $8,700
• Year 10: $11,600
• Years 11 – 15: $8,700
• Year 16: $7,000
• Years 17 – 20: $5,80
AASA - The Superintendent Association, American Federation of Teachers, American School Counselor
Association, First Five Years Fund, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers,
Illinois Principals Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National
Association of School Psychologists, National Education Association, Service Employees International
Union, Higher Education Consortium for Special Education.