Pay Boost Coming for Sumner Schools

Teachers, staff to see raises based on School Board’s budget

While the State of Tennessee continues to move slowly when it comes to investment in teacher compensation, local districts are stepping up.

Sumner County is the latest to announce planned pay raises for its teachers and staff.

Sumner County Schools approved an additional $28,950,000 in its budget to increase pay for all of its employees, according to an email sent to parents and the community. The school board has approved the following raises:

– Increasing classified staff pay to a minimum of $16 per hour.

– Increasing new teacher pay to $47,800, an average raise amount of $3,023 for experienced teachers.

The School Board passed the proposal by a 9-1 vote, with the lone dissenting vote noting he hoped to move starting pay up to $50,000 and ask the County Commission for additional funds for raises.

The proposal will now go through the budget approval process at the Sumner County Commission.

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A Solid F

Tennessee continues to fail when it comes to school funding

In spite of a new school funding formula AND Gov. Bill Lee’s promise to make Tennessee one of the top places to teach in America, the state continues to lag near the bottom in the nation in both per pupil spending AND teacher salary.

A new report reveals that average teacher pay in the state ranks Tennessee 44th in the nation – and among the lowest in the Southeast. Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia all pay their teachers more than Tennessee does.

National Education Association report on school funding

When it comes to per pupil spending, Tennessee is also in familiar territory: Near the bottom.

National Education Association report on school funding

This is just like . . . every other year.

F

Of course, Lee and his allies are fond of claiming everything is fine – that they’re doing a great job of funding schools. A few years back, I examined that claim up close and that takedown still applies:

Here’s some perspective from that 2021 article:

So, the TN House GOP is all excited about spending $616 million plus over TEN years, while the state is sitting on a $3.1 billion surplus this year alone! That means we could spend $616 million in teacher salaries THIS YEAR and still have more than $2.4 billion LEFT to spend. Read that again. Republicans are bragging about taking an entire decade to allocate in total what is available THIS year and could be funded while still leaving $2.4 billion for other priorities.

When it comes to school funding, Tennessee stands at a solid “F” and our policymakers seem to be just fine with that.

Pay Bump on the Way in Memphis

Minimum salary moved to $50K, all teachers will see pay increase

Districts across Tennessee are making moves to increase teacher compensation in the face of a growing shortage of applicants and long lists of open positions.

Chalkbeat reports that Memphis-Shelby County will move starting teacher pay to a minimum of $50,000 a year and bump pay for all teachers – raises that could amount to $4000 or more for most teachers.

Memphis-Shelby County Schools is raising its minimum teacher salary to $50,811 under a new agreement with its two teachers unions, delivering on their salary goals despite a $150 million budget shortfall next year.

Teachers, administrators, and board members, meanwhile, cheered the agreement, which raises the district’s starting salary by 8% for teachers with undergraduate degrees and ensures that veteran teachers receive raises once they have hit the top of the district’s 19-step salary scale.

The move comes even as lawmakers rejected providing additional state funds to assist school districts in raising teacher pay.

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Vouchers vs. Teachers

Lawmakers reject additional investment in teacher pay

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee rejected a move that would have invested the $140 million+ allocated for Gov. Lee’s voucher scheme into an increase in teacher pay.

Sen. London Lamar proposed the budget amendment – suggesting moving money from a voucher plan that is unlikely to gain approval this session into additional investment in public schools.

“This amendment would take the K-12 education funding set aside for Gov. Lee’s school voucher program and reassign it to the K-12 student funding formula,” said Sen. Lamar. “There are so many needs our public school system has that this voucher money could be used for — one of which being teacher raises.”

The proposal failed on a party-line vote, with all nine Republicans on Senate Finance opposing the move.

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Lakeland Makes Money Moves

District boosts teacher pay, new starting pay is $50,000/year

The Lakeland School District is investing in teachers.

This week, the district announced plans to move starting teacher pay to $50,000 and adjust the pay scale for all teachers accordingly.

Effectively, the plan moves every teacher up four spots on the pay scale.

This will mean raises of between $3000-$5000 for all teachers in the system.

Teacher pay matters. Investing in the people who have direct contact with students is a direct investment in student success.

When teachers get paid more, students do better. In one study, a 10% increase in teacher pay was estimated to produce a 5 to 10% increase in student performance. Teacher pay also has long-term benefits for students. A 10% increase in per-pupil spending for each of the 12 years of education results in students completing more education, having 7% higher wages, and having a reduced rate of adult poverty. These benefits are even greater for families who are in poverty.

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State does little to help attract, retain educators

Nashville’s Fox 17 reports that Tennessee is facing a teacher shortage that is growing worse by the year:

The report shows this school year started with more than 1,000 teacher vacancies state-wide, and about 3,000 positions filled by people with an emergency teaching credential. The vacancies are up 16 percent since last school year.

Low pay and poor working conditions are cited as reasons for the exodus from the profession. Likewise, fewer college students are seeking teaching credentials.

I wrote recently about Gov. Bill Lee’s heavy spin around teacher compensation. While Lee claims Tennessee will soon be in the Top 10 in teacher pay, we currently rank in the bottom 7 – and even below Alabama.

“Tennessee teachers are the best in the Southeast, and we have the outcomes and data to back that up, but we are not paid as the best and are behind our peers in neighboring states,” said TEA President Tanya Coats. “Teachers, like other Tennesseans, have been affected by inflation and rising costs in the family budget. State revenues are strong, and we’ve seen record budget surpluses for many years. More can be done to improve the economics of being a professional teacher in our state, and TEA will continue to advocate for professional salaries for our dedicate educators.”

Coats noted that the proposed teacher pay increase will bring Tennessee’s minimum teacher salary to $42,000 a year. She then pointed out that Alabama’s minimum teacher pay is $43,358.

It’s also noteworthy that only 25% of Tennessee teachers earn more than $60,000 a year.

Bill Lee’s rhetoric on teacher pay doesn’t match the policy reality – and teachers are making that clear by leaving the profession.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @tnedreport

A Modest Proposal

$1.9 Billion in new education spending

Over at The Education Report I take a look at Tennessee’s giant revenue surplus and offer a proposal on how that money could be invested to benefit public schools and all of Tennessee.

Here are the basics:

20% raise for all teachers – $625 million

Free school breakfast and lunch for all students – $714 million

Investment in Pre-k – 3rd grade reading – $500 million

We can afford it, our students and communities deserve it.

READ more>

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For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Why Not Make Teacher Starting Pay $60,000?

State’s revenue surplus stuffed under mattresses, teachers, schools left behind

As I read through Tennessee’s latest revenue update, I can’t help but think that state leaders are acting like a “broke dad” when all the evidence points to the opposite.

So far this year, Tennessee has taken in $1.2 billion MORE than was estimated.

On the low end, it seems likely that the state will have a $2 billion surplus THIS YEAR when all is said and done.

THIS KEEPS HAPPENING

As I noted in The Education Report, Tennessee has a “broke dad” mentality.

Let me put it this way: You’re a parent. You have a paid for house, two paid for cars, and enough money in the bank that you can NOT work for a year and still cover basic expenses.

Is that the time when you tell your family that you will all be moving into a car and sleeping in the parking lot of a nearby park?

On a range of issues – from the DCS crisis to third grade retention to teacher compensation, Tennessee policymakers are refusing to invest the revenue provided by taxpayers.

A recent report indicated that only 25% of Tennessee teachers earn $60,000 or more a year.

Here’s an idea: Make the starting pay for Tennessee’s teachers $60,000.

Do it THIS YEAR.

The state can afford it.

In fact, given the teacher shortage, the state really can’t afford not to do it.

Unless, that is, the state is hurtling toward full privatization of public schools and figures public K-12 teacher salaries won’t be the state’s worry soon.

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For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Alabama Still Beats Tennessee

Sure, the UT football team claimed a big win over Alabama in football this year. However, teachers in Alabama still earn more than teachers here in Tennessee.

And yes, that’s even AFTER Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed teacher pay raise announced in last night’s State of the State address.

Here’s more from NewsBreak:

“Tennessee teachers are the best in the Southeast, and we have the outcomes and data to back that up, but we are not paid as the best and are behind our peers in neighboring states,” said TEA President Tanya Coats. “Teachers, like other Tennesseans, have been affected by inflation and rising costs in the family budget. State revenues are strong, and we’ve seen record budget surpluses for many years. More can be done to improve the economics of being a professional teacher in our state, and TEA will continue to advocate for professional salaries for our dedicate educators.”

Coats noted that the proposed teacher pay increase will bring Tennessee’s minimum teacher salary to $42,000 a year. She then pointed out that Alabama’s minimum teacher pay is $43,358.

Yes, that’s right – even with a 4% raise this year, Tennessee teachers will still lag behind neighboring Alabama in teacher pay.

This despite the state facing a significant teacher shortage AND having a surplus in excess of $2 billion.

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Should it be Easier to Become a Teacher in Tennessee

The Tennessee State Board of Education is looking at ways to smooth the pathway into teaching, including by eliminating a key hurdle faced by some candidates – a test of teaching aptitude.

NewsChannel9 in Chattanooga has more:

Currently, all teachers in Tennessee must pass the education teacher performance assessment, whether they have a degree in another field or they’re in the process of student teaching.

But some are looking to drop the requirement for this assessment.

If adopted, the exemption would only apply to about 800-900 teacher certification applicants a year – those who are already “job-embedded” candidates doing teaching under the supervision of a mentor teacher.

The idea, according to officials at the State Board of Education, is to eliminate a barrier to teacher certification for those with a high level of training.

However, as the story notes, schools of education and even recent teacher applicants say the certification process, including the testing, is a key element of preparation for the classroom.

It was about a decade ago when then-Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman pushed the State Board to increase the rigor of requirements to become a certified teacher.

This was supposed to dramatically improve education quality in Tennessee.

Now, facing both a teacher shortage AND a reluctance by policymakers to significantly improve teacher compensation, the State Board is seeking to lower requirements so more people will be eligible for these positions.

It’s noteworthy that in each case, the reform in question did NOT result in any increase in compensation or improvement in working conditions for teachers.

It’s as if investing in teachers is a bridge too far – instead, so-called education “reformers” will continue to try everything possible EXCEPT dramatically raising pay in order to address the issue at hand.

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For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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