Pay Boost Coming for Memphis Teachers

Amid statewide struggles to hire and retain teachers in part due to low pay, Shelby County Schools is working with local teacher unions to boost pay, Chalkbeat reports:

The starting salary for new Shelby County Schools teachers would increase to match or exceed neighboring competitors, and teachers would be annually compensated for master’s degrees under a district counterproposal presented to teacher groups on Friday.

The proposal would add $2,000 to the compensation of new district teachers, raising the starting salary to $45,000. Teachers with master’s degrees could make a salary as high as $74,000, and teachers with doctorates almost $84,000.

The negotiations in Shelby County come as districts across the state struggle to maintain fair compensation for teachers. In fact, a new analysis reveals that while inflation-adjusted state revenue has increased significantly (by 7%) over the past decade, teacher pay is down (by 2.6%) over the same time period:

So, let’s be clear about a few things: 1) State lawmakers prioritized tax cuts for wealthy Tennesseans over raising pay for teachers and 2) Even with these tax cuts, there is significant money available to fund teacher raises and 3) Now that the economy is slowing a bit, legislators are being encouraged to exercise caution — which likely means less money to invest in teacher pay and other public service needs.

The news out of Memphis is encouraging for teachers there. But, there’s a broader, state-level problem that must be addressed.

Tennessee underfunds the BEP (school funding formula) by at least $500 million year. We under-invest in teachers. The recommendations of the state’s BEP Review Committee are routinely ignored by the legislature.

When you pay as little as you possibly can for teachers while stockpiling revenue and under-resourcing schools, you are headed for a crisis.

We’re here. Kudos to Memphis/Shelby County leaders for taking steps to address it locally. It’s time for Governor Bill Lee and the General Assembly to get serious about supporting public schools.

For more on education policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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