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Do some teachers qualify for food stamps?

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This year there has been a national debate about public school teacher compensation.

Fifty-five bills have been introduced this year in 23 states that pertain to teacher pay during the current legislative session, according to FutureEd.

In March, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the “Pay Teachers Act,” which would automatically raise all public-school teachers’ salaries to at least $60,000 a year.

The Democrat from Vermont is not the only politician to continue to express concern about what he called a “major teacher pay crisis” in America.

“Wages for public school teachers are so low that in 36 states, the average public-school teacher with a family of four qualifies for food stamps, public housing, and other government assistance programs,” Sanders said.

Yet, according to recent data from the National Education Association (NEA), the national labor union for public schools, public school teachers in the 2021-22 school year made an average of $66,745.

For most families, this would not qualify them for government assistance.

According to the fiscal year 2023 income eligibility standards for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a national federal food assistance program, a family of four would need to have a gross annual salary of less than $36,084 to be eligible.

The average educator’s pay can vary from state to state.

In states like California or New York, it is as high as $90,000, while even in the states with some of the lowest average teacher salaries, the average salary doesn’t dip below $46,000.

The lowest average salary for public school teachers according to the NEA is in Mississippi at $46,843.

Louisiana was ranked 43 for lowest average teacher salary in 2021-22, with teachers there making an average of $52,472 a year.

Yet, according to a recent survey by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, one-third of the teachers surveyed said they require a second income.

The union’s survey reported 97% of those Louisiana teachers said their salary is not enough to raise a family and 26% said they need or have needed governmental public assistance programs.

Yet, according to the NEA report, the average starting teacher salary for 2022-23 is higher than that gross salary clocking in at $42,844 nationwide.

For most families, even in the lowest ranking state, if the teacher is making the average annual salary or more, a family would have to have at least six members in the family and only be living off that salary to be eligible for SNAP.

However, in Arkansas, some school districts start first-year teachers at $36,000 a year in base salary, according to the Arkansas Department of Education.

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