Maine’s K-12 teachers may get a pay boost in the next few years.

A bill to gradually raise the minimum teacher salary to $50,000 by 2027-28 won unanimous, bipartisan support in the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

The current starting salary for K-12 teachers in Maine is $40,000.

The bill still has a significant way to go. To become law, the measure needs to be passed in the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Janet Mills.

Sen. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, sponsored the bill, which has broad support from the state Department of Education, the Maine Education Association and the state Chamber of Commerce, as well as individual teachers and students who spoke or submitted written testimony in support.

Supporters said teachers need to be paid more to recruit and retain a talented K-12 educator workforce and prepare the next generation of Mainers for success. And they say the move would create pressure to raise teacher salaries across the board, benefitting more experienced teachers who earn more than the minimum pay, as well as those who are early in their careers.


The measure is opposed by the Maine School Management Association, which argued that the bill is poorly timed because schools are facing other budget pressures from inflation, a loss of federal COVID-19 money, and calls for increased support-staff pay. Mandating that districts increase teacher salaries could result in significant local tax increases in some communities, it argued.

The bill moves forward as the state faces a severe educator shortage. The situation is likely to worsen as an increasing number of teachers retire or leave the field and a decreasing number of new teachers enter the field.

For years, schools around the state and the nation have struggled to staff classrooms. The issue was exacerbated by the pandemic, leaving teachers to forgo prep time to cover for colleagues and take on additional workloads. Sometimes schools were forced to close because of staff shortages, all while students’ academic, social and emotional needs have continued to rise. The number of vacant teaching positions in Maine schools is not clear because no one is tracking the issue, but districts across the state, from Portland and Lewiston to those in Aroostook County, have struggled to hire teachers.

Supporters of Pierce’s bill say raising the minimum teacher salary by $2,500 each year over the next four years, to reach a floor of $50,000, would be an important step in addressing the labor shortage and increasing the sustainability of the field.

In the 2020-21 school year, Maine’s average starting teacher salary was $37,580, the 43rd highest in the nation, according to the National Education Association. The $40,000 minimum did not take effect until this school year.

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