AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill that would raise Maine teachers' starting salary to $40,000 has passed on initial votes in both the House and Senate.
LD 898 faces one more vote in the Senate before going to the appropriations table.
Chelsea Crane, a first-grade teacher in Biddeford, said teachers in her hometown of Exeter make just over the state's current minimum of $30,000.
"I'm in the job because it's rewarding. It's good for my heart. It makes me happy, but the salary -- it's tight," said Crane.
She said she spends about $200 of her own money at the start of the year on extra items to furnish her classrooms and another $100 to $200 throughout the year to keep up with supplies.
"Teachers are taking out credit cards and doing it that way because it's the only way they can afford it," said Crane. "They put their classroom kids before their own kids because it's the only way they can afford it."
Critics worry about tax increases and how the state will fund these higher salaries.
Some are concerned that smaller districts with smaller budgets would not be able to sustain the salaries.
The bill has the state funding the salaries through the school funding formula for the first year, then tapering down state funding by 33 percent each following year.
"I know it's hard to see that come out of your taxes, but we need it. We need it to support our kids. We need it to support our kids. And by supporting your teachers, you're supporting your kids," said Crane.
The Maine Education Association, a union representing teachers, praises the mission of the bill.
These are the salaries for Maine teachers listed by district located on the Maineea.org website.
MEA President Grace Leavitt told NEWS CENTER Maine that teacher workforce shortage is at a "critical level," and that higher salaries would encourage more people to become teachers and provide better quality teachers.