Credit: Carrie Kaufman

Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris came to Carson City on Tuesday to give the keynote address at Battle Born Progress’ awards gala.

But first, she wanted to talk to – and about – teachers.

Listen to Kamala Harris Outline Her Teacher Pay Proposal to a Group of Educators in Carson City

Harris held an education roundtable at Eagle Valley Middle School – a few miles from the building where legislators are trying to figure out Nevada’s education plans for the next decade. While legislators are taking on nothing less than the reorganization of state funding, Harris wants to specifically help teachers. The California Democrat wants federal investment that will go directly to teacher salaries.

Harris’ plan is a broad outline. Teacher salaries are negotiated by a number of teachers’ unions on a state by state, district by district basis. Her $315 million, 10-year plan aims to raise teacher salaries by an average of $13,500 a year. In Nevada, she told a library full of teachers and press, teachers would get an approximately $15,000 pay raise.

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Most of the money for the salary bumps would come from the federal government, should Harris become president. In a Washington Post op-ed where she outlined her plan, Harris said that the federal government would provide the “first 10 percent of funding needed to close the teacher pay gap.”

After that, the feds would match state investment 3-1 until the pay gap is closed. She added, “States will be required to maintain their investment over time, and increase that amount to cover their share of wage inflation.”

That’s a big ask in a climate where states are struggling to find education dollars for personnel and infrastructure, resulting in teacher strikes in states like Oklahoma and California. The federal money might be enticing, but can budget strapped states afford even a third more in teacher salaries?

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Harris’ aspirational plan is in sharp relief to the message that Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara has been telling his school board and legislators: that without more money, his district – which serves over 300,000 students – would not be able to keep the promise Governor Sisolak made to give teachers a 3 percent raise. And, Senator Mo Denis, who chairs the Education Committee, has said that the long-awaited bill to change Nevada’s funding formula will not include more money for education.

Some of Harris’ plan would not involve state funding. She intends to invest in teacher recruitment, with about half of the money going to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). And, Harris said that her plan will invest more in “higher risk” schools, but she did not go into details about how that designation will be determined, and whether the federal government can ensure the money gets to teachers.