Democrats Seek Election-Year Gains by Pushing Teacher Raises

(Bloomberg) -- Democrats in Congress are seeking to capitalize on unrest over teacher pay that has led to classroom walkouts in a handful of states, offering an election-year plan to roll back part of last year’s GOP tax cut to boost funds for schools, including higher wages for educators.

States and local school districts would get $50 billion over a decade to raise teacher pay and recruit more educators. The plan would provide another $50 billion for school buildings and resources, and expand public school teachers’ collective bargaining rights.

The measure is among a series of initiatives Democrats are offering to rally their core voters ahead of elections in November, when every House seat is on the ballot, along with a third of Senate seats. As the minority party in both chambers, Democrats lack the power to bring their plans to a vote.

On Monday, Democrats focused on controversies surrounding President Donald Trump and allegations of corruption in his administration, promising new ethics rules and restrictions on campaign donations from undisclosed contributors.

To pay for the education plan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders want to cancel the new tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

“Instead of giving a tax cut to the richest of Americans, we should give a pay raise to teachers in this country who our students depend on to succeed,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a news conference. Joining the Democrats were leaders of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, key donors to the party and its candidates.

The recent teacher walkouts have occurred in some important election battleground states including Arizona, where GOP Senator Jeff Flake is retiring, and West Virginia, where incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is fighting to keep his seat.

Teachers in West Virginia ended a nine-day strike in March with a 5 percent pay raise. Other states where teachers have demonstrated for higher pay include Oklahoma, Kentucky and Colorado.

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