Yesterday, I reported on the national wage gap between teachers and other professionals and dug into the data to look at the impact on Tennessee.
It’s pretty disappointing nationally, but the Tennessee numbers are especially disturbing: Below the national average and even about 3 points below the Southeastern average.
We can do better.
Here’s the good news: The Department of Finance and Administration recently released revenue numbers for the fiscal year that ended June 30th. Turns out, we have LOTS of extra money.
Year-to-date revenues for 12 months were $925.0 million more than the budgeted estimate. The general fund recorded revenues in the amount of $852.4 million more than the budgeted estimate, and the four other funds $72.6 million more than the budgeted estimate.
Yes, that’s right, $925 million MORE than we planned on having.
To fully close the wage gap for teachers, we’d need around $500 million which would result in a raise of about $10,000 per teacher.
With this available surplus, Tennessee could become the first state in the nation to close the wage gap completely. And we could do it with $425 million to spare. That’s pretty conservative. Oh, and we could do it without raising a single tax.
An even more conservative approach would be to phase-in wage gap closure over two to three years to ensure revenue is keeping up. That could mean an average raise of about $5000 per teacher in the first year and slightly smaller, but significant raises in successive years.
A move like that would grab national attention. Suddenly, our neighbors in Kentucky and Alabama could no longer say they offer a better value proposition for their teachers.
We would not only deliver on becoming the fastest-improving state in teacher salaries, we’d be doing it in a fiscally responsible, conservative way.
If you’re in college and want to be a teacher, wouldn’t you want to go where you could make just as much as your professional peers? In Tennessee, you’re making 30% less at current numbers. But the budget situation in our state means it doesn’t have to be that way.
The first state in the nation to close the teacher wage gap. It could be Tennessee.
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