A recent article in the New York Times detailing a nationwide struggle to find and hire qualified teachers mentions Nashville as one of the large, urban districts “having trouble finding teachers.”
Data from the Appalachian Regional Comprehensive Center suggests the problem, in Tennessee at least, is not just limited to Nashville:
Since 2009, Tennessee has identified shortages in the overall numbers of K-12 teachers needed for public schools as well as teachers for specific subjects. There is a critical need in the state for STEM teachers, as well as shortages in high school English, social studies, world languages, Pre-K through high school special education, and English as a second language.
But, looking specifically at Nashville, a review of teacher salaries in similar urban districts reveals that Nashville teachers don’t fare so well compared to their counterparts.
Just a few hours away, in Louisville, KY, teachers make significantly more money than their Nashville peers. While MNPS offers competitive starting pay, there’s a gap that widens as teachers gain more experience.
While in Nashville, mayoral candidates lamented the growing difficulty teachers face affording housing, in Louisville, teachers make a solid middle class income from the start to the end of their career.
Money isn’t the only factor behind the teacher shortage, but it certainly plays a role. Tennessee should take steps to improve the overall compensation of its teachers and begin building the supports and providing the resources teachers need to succeed.
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Is anyone surprised that teachers & potential are fleeing the profession? TN policy makers & lawmakers have made punishment the standard protocol for teachers working conditions in the state. TN officials seem to prefer shortages & churn to stable, well educated professional educators.
In 2013 TN changed it’s state minimum salary schedule under the recommendation of disgraced TN Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. He and the TN School Board reduced the step raises from 21 to 4, collapsed the advanced degree categories from four to one, and ended raises after 11 years of service.
Huffman claimed experience and advanced degrees do not impact student learning. A reanalysis of the TN STAR study contradicts this notion, showing that kindergarten students had higher achievement and earnings as adults depending on how long teachers had been in the profession.
This pay plan will not attract the best teachers. Coupled with disrespect, a draconian evaluation system, invalid use of TVASS, opens the door for short-term, out-of-state temporary teachers and an ever-insecure class of teachers.
Ironically, when Commissioner Kevin Huffman was sworn into office, he was the best-paid agency head making $200,000 per year, up $20,000, or 11 percent, from his predecessor. Gov. Haslam then stated, “In government we’re never going to pay what they do in the private market. But if we’re going to attract great people, we’re going to have to at least make it comparable.”
Does the new Commissioner McQueen plan to advocate for TN teachers? Will she and any state legislators undo the damage they imposed on teachers?