House Republican Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison of Cosby has indicated he’ll be pushing for a significant pay raise for Tennessee teachers when the legislature reconvenes in 2020. WJHL has more:
“Our teachers are some of the hardest-worked people in Tennessee and I definitely see a raise coming in,” says House Republican Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison who was voted into the leadership position this past August.
Few doubt the K-12 teachers’ low pay compared to other states, but Representative Faison says the issue is especially acute in those districts away from urban areas.
“Our teachers in rural Tennessee are struggling,” said Faison in a recent interview. “If you are a single parent and you are a teacher and you have two kids, that’s like poverty wages.”
A recent analysis indicates that over the last 10 years, Tennessee has seen inflation-adjusted revenue growth of 7%. Over that same time period, teacher pay is down by 2.6%. That’s not surprising, given that Tennessee receives an “F” on a rating of funding effort for schools according to the Education Law Center.
In fact, Think Tennessee highlighted two important numbers relative to school funding in our state:
So, we’ve got some work to do — both in teacher pay and in overall investment in schools.
Back in 2014, I wrote about the state’s broken school funding formula, the BEP. The fact is, it’s still broken today. The solution propose then would also work now:
There’s an easy fix to this and it has been contemplated by at least one large school system in the state. That fix? Moving the BEP instructional component to the state average. Doing so would cost just over $500 million. So, it’s actually NOT that easy. Another goal of those seeking greater equity is moving the BEP instructional match from 70% to 75%, essentially fulfilling the promise of BEP 2.0. Doing so would cost at least $150 million.
The state should absolutely make a significant investment in teacher pay in 2020. We can afford it, with billions of dollars in surpluses coming in over the last five years. Frankly, we can’t afford NOT to do it. Ignoring the problem will just further exacerbate a growing teacher shortage.
For the past five years Tennessee has been running huge revenue surpluses as education needs go unmet. Over this five-year span the state collected nearly $3 billion more in general fund revenue than it anticipated. Last year alone the state general fund had a $580 million surplus. These are millions that could have gone to classrooms.
Combining an improvement in teacher pay at a level of 5% or more with a move toward full funding of BEP 2.0 (a cost of some $500 million) would go a long way toward giving Tennessee teachers both the pay and resources they need. We have the money. The only question is will lawmakers like Faison find the collective political will to make the investment.
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