The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) is out with a report on teacher compensation across the region. Not surprisingly, teacher compensation in the South is about 16% below the national average. Of course, Tennessee teacher compensation lags behind even the average in our region. We are low in a region that is low.
Not only is Tennessee behind other states when it comes to compensation, but Tennessee also has the lowest annual pension benefit for retired teachers. So, we pay teachers at a rate that is somewhat below average and in retirement, our teachers earn less than all their counterparts in our neighboring states.
The average pension in Tennessee is $29,000 while in the region it is $39,000.
SREB actually recommends an overhaul of retirement systems to support a more portable retirement plan. That said, it’s not exactly encouraging to teachers when they see both low pay and relatively low benefits.
As SREB notes:
Higher salaries alone can’t address teacher shortages
— but they can help. Many SREB states have work to do to catch
up with regional and national averages.
And as it relates to retirement:
Retirement should pay better. Most professionals don’t stay in one career anymore.
States can save money and help teachers build more retirement savings through optional portable investment plans. States should bring teachers to the table to build new options.
Of course, this news is important as our state faces a growing teacher shortage crisis.
If only our state had a huge budget surplus AND a pending redesign of the school funding formula. It would seem a perfect opportunity to hire more teachers, provide them with excellent compensation, and give them the tools for a secure retirement.
Unfortunately, Gov. Bill Lee’s TISA plan does none of those things.
Here’s how we know this plan won’t boost student achievement. First, it does nothing to shore up the shortage of teachers needed to adequately support students now. That is, according to both TACIR and the Comptroller, Tennessee districts hire MORE teachers (11,000 more, to be exact) than the current formula funds. Guess what? TISA does nothing to change that. There is no indication that the weights will mean more teachers hired and supported by state funding.
Next, TISA does nothing to boost overall teacher pay. Sure, TISA “allows” lawmakers to earmark certain funds to give raises to “existing” teachers, but that doesn’t mean they will. Nor does it mean those raises will be significant. This year’s $125 million set aside for teacher compensation will mean what is effectively a 2-3% raise for most teachers. Based on current inflation rates and rising insurance premiums, this essentially amounts to a pay cut.
When it is time for evaluating organizations to release reports on school funding and teacher compensation, it’s best to start at the bottom of the list if you want to find Tennessee.
Bill Lee has done nothing to change that so far as Governor and his new funding plan continues to leave us as among the lowest of the low.
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