Now 4=3

Readers may remember that last year, after Governor Bill Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly provided funds equivalent to a four percent increase in the BEP salary allocation, the State Board of Education accepted Commissioner Candice McQueen’s recommendation to increase the state’s salary schedule by two percent.

As McQueen wrote at the time:

We believe this proposal strikes the right balance between maximum flexibility for school districts and the recognized need to improve minimum salaries in the state. For the large majority of districts, the proposal does not result in any mandatory impact as most local salary schedules already exceed the proposed minimums. For these districts, the salary funds must still be used for compensation but no mandatory adjustments to local schedules exist.

This year, Governor Haslam and the General Assembly commendably added another four percent increase to BEP salary funds. The adjustment to the state’s minimum salary schedule, however, is up to the State Board of Education upon recommendation of the Commissioner of Education.

This year’s recommendation was a three percent increase. Today, the State Board of Education adopted that recommendation, making $32,445 the new base salary for Tennessee teachers, effectively the minimum a teacher in the state can earn.

As the State Board of Education notes:

An estimated total of 29  school districts will be required to make
increases to at least one level of their local salary schedule resulting in a specific and earmarked salary expenses.

Admittedly, this year’s increase in funding and the State Board action represent progress.

Last year, I made the following recommendations representing a way to truly improve teacher compensation in our state while supporting local districts:

  • Set the minimum salary for a first-year teacher at $40,000 and create a pay scale with significant raises at 5 years (first year a TN teacher is tenure eligible), 10 years, and 20 years along with reasonable step increases in between
  • Fund the BEP salary component at 75%
  • Adjust the BEP to more accurately account for the number of teachers a district needs
  • Fully fund RTI2 including adding a BEP component for Intervention Specialists
  • Adopt the BEP Review Committee’s recommendations on professional development and mentoring so teachers get the early support and ongoing growth they need

While the General Assembly did pass some BEP reforms this year, more should be done. For example, the new BEP formula freezes funding for the BEP salary component at 70%. Also, an adjustment in the calculation for number of teachers is still needed.

Again, however, this year’s legislative action and today’s State Board of Education action represent measurable progress.

 

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

Haslam on K-12 Education

Governor Bill Haslam delivered his annual budget address tonight. Here are his remarks on K-12 education as prepared for delivery:

Right now, the spotlight is on Tennessee. Who would have thought a decade ago that Tennessee would have significant positive attention around education? Strategic investments, increased accountability, and higher standards have changed the game.

We’ve always known that post-secondary education was not just about access. It’s really about success. And we knew that our students couldn’t succeed if they weren’t prepared when they left our high schools. It’s why we’ve worked so hard to improve student outcomes in our K-12 schools. And why it’s important that Tennessee students are still the fastest improving students in the country since 2011.

In Tennessee our public schools have roughly 1 million students. Since 2011, 131,000 more students are on grade-level in math and nearly 60,000 more are on grade-level in science. For the third straight year, Tennessee public high school students improved on their ACT. Our graduation rate has increased for the third year in a row and now stands at 88 percent.

We need to stop and take a moment – not to pat ourselves on the back – but to let all of that sink in.

A lot of you in this chamber remember when this state continually ranked near the bottom in national rankings, and you understand the progress Tennessee has made in just a few short years. Think about the teachers who continually rise to the challenges their students might bring through the door every day. Teachers and students are doing more than ever before, and their achievements must be recognized. We’ve raised our expectations and our standards. Through the process approved by the General Assembly last year we are well on the way to having in place our new Tennessee Standards that we spent so much time discussing over the last two years. Teams of educators have been working to review each standard, and their work is being reviewed by other professional educators with input from thousands of Tennesseans. The new standards should be voted on by the Board of Education this April.

While much of the rest of the country is still arguing about what to do on Common Core standards, Tennessee went to work developing our standards that continue to raise the bar of expectations. This is what we do. We respond to a changing world and make sure our students are prepared for tomorrow.

I personally believe that investing in education is the smartest thing we can do for economic development. But I also believe it’s a smart long-term investment. One of the things I want to make certain that we do with this budget is invest money that will save us money down the road. The facts are clear: a more educated population will spend less money on health care. Less money on incarceration. If we’re going to be about anything, it has to be about opportunity for all Tennessee students.

One of the things I think we should be the most proud of is that Tennessee – working together – has been a national leader in investing in K-12 during this administration. Tennessee is in the top 10 for elementary and secondary state education expenditures in the nation. We are also outpacing the national average increase in teacher salaries, and that’s before this year’s investment.

Hear me now, our commitment to education continues in a big way tonight. This budget proposal includes the largest investment in K-12 education in Tennessee’s history without a tax increase. We’re funding the Basic Education Program (BEP) portion of teacher salaries with $105 million. Between the current fiscal year’s $153 million and this year’s proposed $261 million investment in K-12 education, Tennessee state government will invest more than $414 million new dollars in our schools, more than $200 million of those additional dollars for teacher salaries.

We’re also including nearly $30 million for the 12th month of health insurance so teachers are offered year-round insurance through the state. And we’re doubling the state investment for a total of $30 million in recurring state dollars going to technology needs at our schools.

Our TCAP tests this year showed that we are making great progress in math and English in our high schools and that proficiency in math and science is increasing in all grades. However, those same tests showed that we are not making the kind of progress that we would like to see in third through eighth grade reading. Because of that, we’re investing $9 million to create a network of literacy coaches and regional coordinators supporting literacy efforts all across the state. Our students have shown incredible growth, but reading remains a challenging area that we have to get right.

What’s important in all of this is that we’re not investing in the same old public education system in Tennessee. We’ve raised our standards. We’ve linked teacher evaluations to student performance. And we’ve expanded education options for children. We are showing historic progress, and we can’t back up. We are a system that is committed to the basic premise that all children should have access to a quality public education regardless of zip code, and we are shrinking the achievement gap for historically underserved and low-income students. None of us should want to go back to ranking in the 40’s. This state will continue to do what has brought our students success: investing more in education while raising our standards and making certain that how well students are learning is reflected in teacher evaluations. I’m grateful to no longer be in the 40’s, but I’m not satisfied to be in the 30’s.

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

 

Pay For Test Scores: The Price of my Humanity

MNPS Teacher Molly Handler offers her thoughts on merit pay:

 

When I first began teaching 9 years ago in MNPS, Vanderbilt was beginning a pay for performance study in Nashville middle school mathematics classrooms. This was the first scientific study of its kind in the US, and it sought to answer if merit pay alone, independent of other resources and support, increased student achievement as measured by test scores. Teachers in my middle school were eligible to be part of this study; I declined to participate, and explained extensively in the questionnaire the ideological reasons for this. The results of this study suggest that performance pay alone did not improve student outcomes.

 

A few years later, the same school in which I was working was eligible for the TIF grant which, “supports efforts to develop and implement performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems in high-need schools.” Eligibility for performance awards is based on student achievement growth, educator effectiveness and professional growth. If you examine the matrix used by my district to determine these performance awards, there is one lone area in which a teacher may earn incentive pay that is not directly tied to standardized test scores. This was not something I could opt out of, as I had the Vanderbilt study so I vowed that if I ever received money from this grant that I would not be able to keep it.

 

My third year of working at a TIF eligible school (2013-2014) I received $1,000 via the grant. When I first found out I would receive this money I began to think about the organizations to which I would donate it, and was excited that I could represent an ideology in which I had strongly believed since my first year of teaching. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that my thought process strayed from this for a while, and I strongly considered keeping the money. It’s no secret that teachers don’t make great money, and I had some bills I could put it toward. I told myself I deserved this money that it would be a small token for the overwork and underpay scenario in which I had been living for my entire teaching career. While it did not incentivize me to do anything differently than I would otherwise, it was a small portion of the money I was owed. During this time I also heard Diane Ravitch speak at Vanderbilt, and one thing she discussed was how merit-based pay systems have never worked in the teaching profession. She called them a ‘zombie idea,’ something that fails over and over yet just won’t die. This made me realize I could not abandon this ideology that I held before I ever even began teaching, before I knew significantly less than I do now about the realities of this profession. I decided to give this money (which ended up being about $600 after taxes and other deductions) to the Metropolitan Nashville Education Fund (affiliated with Metro Nashville Education Association) and the Johnella H Martin Scholarship fund. This scholarship is awarded to an MNPS graduate who plans to study teaching and learning, and is awarded for all 4 years of college. The following outlines my ideologies of why I oppose merit-based pay, and why the cause to which I gave this money represents the complete opposite of what merit-based pay (and privatization of public schools) suggest.

 

  1. Our profession deserves to be compensated, not individuals within the profession whose students score well on tests. Money should support increasing pay for all teachers, rather than only given to some. I’m not suggesting that every teacher should make the exact same money; I believe that differences in pay should be reflected by experience, commitment to the profession, and education. When merit pay is given only to some and based on a flawed accountability system we are being forced into the competitive free market mentality on which privatization is dependent. Differences in pay should not be inconsistent and retroactive as they are when based on test scores, and they should represent equitable choices that all professionals in the field may access if they desire rather than based on the whim of a single score. The field of teaching is the most successful and best advanced when teachers work in collaboration not competition.

 

  1. Rather than awarding some people extra money for test scores, that money would be better spent on services that actually serve the needs of students and families. Schools need resources…not always physical resources, but resources to help support the failures of our society that seem to fall squarely on the shoulders of our public schools (health care, a living wage, affordable housing, hunger, etc.). Receiving the actual social services that are needed in schools and classrooms is more valuable, useful, and rewarding to teachers than possible incentive pay. It is certainly more valuable to the neediest students and families. I believe all teachers would choose support services for their students and classrooms as a job ‘incentive’ rather than merit-based pay.

 

  1. The field of teaching is being de-professionalized, and merit-based pay is one of many vehicles for such de-professionalization. Giving this money in support of MNEA suggests that the teacher voice should be the one guiding the field of education, not the bureaucratic one. Decision makers in our field have become people with little to no teaching experience, and this dynamic has run rampant. Returning decision-making (not to be confused with power and authority) to the collective teacher voice is vital.

 

  1. The Johnella H Martin Scholarship fund supports students of the school system in which I work who want to make a commitment to become career teachers. We need young people to study and commit to this field and profession, rather than filling our classrooms with teachers from programs like Teach For America.

 

  1. The testing and accountability movement is the foundation on which the privatization movement is based. Its use to credit or discredit individual students, teachers, schools, or school systems, is ill willed, and flawed. Tests are important and useful, but they are simply indicators that should be used as such. Teachers should use them in the classroom to guide specific aspects and topics of instruction, and systemically they might provide the ability to generalize information over a longer period of time. Interpreting and using them narrowly and then attaching a high stakes institutionalized practice to them, which is used to make sweeping generalizations and important decisions that affect peoples’ lives, for example, how much income they bring home is misuse, ill informed, and morally reprehensible.

 

  1. What I witnessed on the ground level, during the implementation of these various plans, at various schools, amongst various staff, is that they did nothing to change the actual practices of teacher pedagogy and student learning for better or worse. Despite the fact that matrices laid out the desired input a teacher must achieve in order to earn merit-based pay, such understanding of teaching practice is problematic and ignorant both pedagogically and logistically. I watched as extra money was awarded or not awarded to people who taught subjects never tested, to people who far exceeded the number of absences within the matrix, to teachers who actively improved their practice, to people who did not intend to be career teachers, to people who showed strong compassion for students, to teachers who worked in isolation or collaboration, and to teachers who did or did not focus exclusively on teaching to the test. My point is, that if the goal of such a system is to change the practice of teaching and learning in a consistent way for the better, there seemed to be no correlation between earning merit-based pay with such an outcome. The idea that matrices will somehow allow teachers to understand exactly what they need to do in order to get higher test scores amazes me to this day, as if teaching and learning is like a function table, and all we must do is understand the right input in order to get the desired output. Then, we must be rewarded for such output because otherwise we aren’t incentivized to implement the input in the first place. The over simplicity of such a system is linear in thought and organization, as compared to the cyclical complexities of classroom teaching. This juxtaposition speaks strongly to the alienation and true motives of those trying to implement merit-based pay in the first place.

 

It seems we, as teachers, are powerless over many of these changes that seek to devalue our profession both monetarily and pedagogically. Even if law imposes TIF-like plans on us, it is our money and we may do with it what we like. Much in the same way that sick banks are established in large group health insurance plans, teachers might find a way to establish group plans that seek to redistribute merit-based pay that recognizes the entirety of the profession rather than the narrow measures of the few. Such a system could interpret this redistribution in any way deemed fit, as it could be divided up equally amongst its members, donated to a valuable cause, or used to purchase additional supports and services that go unfunded but that its members felt were vital to their work and for their students. Most importantly, however, it might empower us to reclaim that the true nature of our profession is to work collaboratively in service of our students and our field, rather than to compete with one another for individualized monetary benefit that is awarded via a single measure.

 

Allowing our field to be stratified and quantified based on attaching payment to test scores dehumanizes the realities of our day-to-day work. This alienation robs us of our humanity. I feel this dehumanization seeping into my profession and the lives of my students and myself more and more each day, as data and test scores supersede true learning, service, and compassion. We accept practices and ideologies with which we do not agree, that our training and experience contradict, as we are fearful for our livelihoods and our profession. As a teacher, I needed something to reassert myself and the humanity of my career. For me, accepting this money would have further forfeited my ability to define the relationships, actions, and knowledge that have become part of my identity and the profession of teaching. Teaching is an art, talent, service, belief, career, and skill set, and I cannot trade those things for a practice that suggests otherwise, even if such a practice involves a thousand dollars.

 

For more on education politics and policy, follow @TNEdReport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Don’t They Want to Teach?

A recent article in the New York Times detailing a nationwide struggle to find and hire qualified teachers mentions Nashville as one of the large, urban districts “having trouble finding teachers.”

Data from the Appalachian Regional Comprehensive Center suggests the problem, in Tennessee at least, is not just limited to Nashville:

Since 2009, Tennessee has identified shortages in the overall numbers of K-12 teachers needed for public schools as well as teachers for specific subjects. There is a critical need in the state for STEM teachers, as well as shortages in high school English, social studies, world languages, Pre-K through high school special education, and English as a second language.

But, looking specifically at Nashville, a review of teacher salaries in similar urban districts reveals that Nashville teachers don’t fare so well compared to their counterparts.

Just a few hours away, in Louisville, KY, teachers make significantly more money than their Nashville peers. While MNPS offers competitive starting pay, there’s a gap that widens as teachers gain more experience.

While in Nashville, mayoral candidates lamented the growing difficulty teachers face affording housing, in Louisville, teachers make a solid middle class income from the start to the end of their career.

Money isn’t the only factor behind the teacher shortage, but it certainly plays a role. Tennessee should take steps to improve the overall compensation of its teachers and begin building the supports and providing the resources teachers need to succeed.

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

 

Reform is Working

That’s the message from the Tennessee Department of Education based on recently released TCAP results and an analysis of the data over time.

You can see for yourself here and here.

The one area of concern is reading, but overall, students are performing better than they were when new TCAP tests were started and standards were raised.

Here’s the interesting thing: This is true across school districts and demographic subgroups. The trend is positive.

Here’s something else: A similar trend could be seen in results before the change in the test in 2009.

Tennessee students were steadily making gains. Teachers and schools were hitting the mark set for them by policymakers. This in an age of collective bargaining for teachers and no TVAAS-based evaluation or pay schemes.

When the standards were made higher — certainly a welcome change — teachers again hit the mark.

Of course, since the standards change, lots of other reforms have taken place. Most of these have centered around teachers and the incorporation of TVAAS in teacher evaluation and even pay schemes. The State Board of Education even gutted the old state salary schedule to promote pay differentiation, ostensibly based on TVAAS scores.

But does pay for TVAAS actually lead to improved student outcomes as measured by TVAAS?

Consider this comparison of Putnam County and Cumberland County. Putnam was one of the original TIF recipients and among the first to develop a pay scheme based on teacher evaluations and TVAAS.

Putnam’s 2014 TVAAS results are positive, to be sure. But neighboring Cumberland County (a district that is demographically similar and has a similar assortment of schools) also shows positive TVAAS results.  Cumberland relies on the traditional teacher pay scale. From 2012-13 to 2013-14, Putnam saw a 50% increase in the number of categories (all schools included) in which they earned TVAAS scores of 5. So did Cumberland County.

Likewise, from 2012-13 to 2013-14, Putnam saw a 13% decline in the number of categories in which they earned TVAAS scores below a 3. In Cumberland County, the number was cut by 11%.

This is one example over a two-year cycle. New district level results for 2015 will soon be available and will warrant an update. But, it’s also worth noting that these results track results seen in Denver in analysis of their ProComp pay system. Specifially, University of Colorado’s Denver ProComp Evaluation Report (2010-2012) finds little impact of ProComp on student achievement, or on teachers’ professional practices, including their teaching practices or retention.

The Putnam-Cumberland initial analysis tracks with that of the ProComp studies: Teacher performance pay, even if devised in conjunction with teacher groups, cannot be said to have a significant impact on student performance over time.

So, prior to 2008, student academic achievement as measured by Tennessee standardized tests showed steady improvement over time. This occurred in an environment with no performance pay. Again from 2009-2015, across districts and demographic groups, student achievement is improving. Only a small number of Tennessee districts have performance pay schemes — so, that alone would indicate that performance pay is not driving improved student outcomes.  Then, a preliminary comparison of two districts suggests that both performance pay and non-performance pay districts see significant (and similar) TVAAS gains.

Reform may be working — but it may not be the reform the reformers want to push.

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

Merit Pay Fails

That’s not exactly what JC Bowman and PET had to say when the Tennessee Board of Education gutted the state minimum salary schedule at the recommendation of Kevin Huffman back in 2013, but it comes pretty close. Here’s what PET said back then:

Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Franklin, Tn., comments on pay policy that requires each district to create a merit pay system by the 2014-15 school year. The state board is taking this action to fulfill the requirements of Public Chapter 376 (2007), Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-3-306(h), the State Board of Education has developed guidelines for the establishment of differentiated pay plans by local education agencies.

J.C. Bowman, executive director of PET, said, “Our experience with differentiated pay/merit pay is that it is never funded appropriately. If the state is the source of funding it will eventually go away.  We have watched programs implemented in our state and other states simply be discontinued.  The state needs to reassure educators this will not happen.  It can be argued that this is more of a political issue and not an education issue. If this is the case, it may serve politicians more than educators.  It is imperative that PET works with policymakers and local systems to come up with a system that is fair for teachers.  It is our job to make sure that teachers have a seat at the table in working toward an effective and just policy. Therefore, we want to clearly articulate our position as outlined below, and look forward to the discussion.

“Professional Educators of Tennessee believes the common ground can be found by financially rewarding educators for their expertise and their excellence.  This will attract and retain the best and brightest to the teaching profession.  However, Professional Educators of Tennessee opposes the use of student test scores as the primary measure of a teacher’s effectiveness, as the determining factor for a teacher’s compensation or as the primary rationale for an adverse employment action.  Rewarding teachers for their performance has been discussed in education for decades but has been a particularly heated issue of late.

“This may well work at the campus level as a campus score as long as the local teachers are involved with development. However, the critical question is can we create a fair system that works at the individual teacher level? There is no valid instrument or value added model that reflects all the outside factors affecting a student’s education that a teacher controls.  We understand that whoever controls the test literally controls the entire system.  There is no stronger tool to defeat the freedom to teach, than by boiling it all down to a test.

“PET believes that teachers should be rewarded for a variety of reasons, including rewarding teachers experience and advanced degrees.  PET opposes incentive or performance pay programs, unless they are designed in an equitable and fair manner.   PET supports a career compensation and benefits package for all certified, licensed and contracted public school employees that mandates competitive salaries that are equal to or greater than the national average and competitive with private industry.  The state should still include a minimum salary schedule that provides for step increases to recognize longevity in the profession.  PET supports the creation of a statewide set of evaluation standards for campus administrators that includes a survey of classroom educators and staff regarding the professional performance of the campus administrators.

“In addition to experience and degrees, we expect to see salary increases targeted at performance (merit), market, equity, or retention.  General financial parameters and guidelines should be established each year as part of the budget development process at the state and local level.   In addition, below are a few additional talking points on the subject:

• Merit salary increases may be composed of many  differing components, but two components – a base salary percentage increase (specified in budget) and a percentage increase in recognition of above satisfactory (or exceptional) performance.  This will be mostly tied to increases in student achievement/performance.
• Adjustments to salaries may also be made when there is an issue resulting from market or other equity factors
• Equity factors exist from internal pay disparities and are not related to individual performance

• Retention bonus should occur in hard to fill positions like foreign language, special education and higher level math and science.”

 

This is particularly relevant given the State Department of Education’s recommendation to the State Board of Education regarding the state salary schedule.

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

 

Of Poverty and Teacher Pay

Recently, I wrote about the correlation between poverty, investment in schools, and student achievement test scores.

To summarize, wealthier districts with lower levels of poverty tended to both invest more in their schools AND get higher scores on achievement tests.

On the flip side, school districts with higher levels of poverty had less money to invest in schools and also saw lower student achievement scores.

Now, I’ve broken down the top and bottom 10 districts from those posts and I’m highlighting their average teacher salaries. Here’s the data:

TOP 10

District                                    2014 Average Teacher Salary

Franklin Special                   $52,080

Rogersville                             $44,906

Newport                                $42,962

Maryville                               $52,076

Oak Ridge                             $54,039

Williamson                           $48,471

Greeneville                          $45,386

Johnson City                       $52,222

Kingsport                             $51,425

Shelby County                   $56,180

Average for Top 10 Districts: $49,974

 

Bottom 10

District                                   2014 Average Salary

Lake Co.                                 $42,547

Union Co.                               $42,027

Madison Co.                          $45,282

Campbell Co.                        $41,563

Haywood Co.                        $43,318

Hardeman Co.                      $43,556

Hancock Co.                          $39,777

Memphis                               $56,000 (Shelby Co. number, as Memphis is now part of SCS)

Fayette Co.                            $41,565

Humboldt                             $42,072

Average for Bottom 10: $43,770

The salary disparity among the top 10 and bottom 10 districts in terms of academic performance is $6204 — or 14.2%.

These numbers roughly correlate with the districts most able to pay and with the greatest investment over the BEP.

It’s important to note that high pay alone does not represent high student achievement. It is also important to note, though, that those districts with the most consistent high performance on student achievement indicators also consistently pay more than districts that are lower-performing.

Wealthier districts invest more funds in their schools, invest more in their teachers, and see better overall outcomes than low-income districts. Teacher pay is a part of that overall equation.

MORE on Teacher Pay:

A 4% Raise for Tennessee Teachers?

Do Your Job, Get Less Money

Pay Teachers More … A Lot More

Why is TN 40th in Teacher Pay?

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

 

A (Sort of) 4% Raise for Teachers

Governor Bill Haslam delivered his State of the State address tonight and outlined his budget and policy priorities for the coming year.

Among the proposals he outlined was $100 million to provide raises for Tennessee teachers. That equates to enough money to provide all teachers with a 4% raise.

But.

Haslam’s plan doesn’t increase teacher compensation by 4%. Instead, it provides the money to districts and encourages them to use it to reward the “best performers.” Districts could give all teachers 4% or they could provide 6% raises for some teachers and 2% raises for others. Or they could, as they did the last time an increase in salary money was provided, give a smaller raise to more instructional staff. In 2013-14, Haslam provided funds for a 1.5% raise but the average Tennessee teacher saw only .5% — or 1/3 of what was available. Districts used the remaining funds to cover other instructional costs.

Let me be clear: Haslam is to be commended for finding the resources to provide districts with these funds. $100 million for a teacher pay increase is the biggest pot of money for that purpose to be provided in many years.

Additionally, Haslam is dealing with revenue issues by proposing a modernization of the tax code. It’s plan that will introduce fairness and protect small, Tennessee-based businesses.

But it’s not a 4% raise for all teachers. Not yet. And Tennessee teachers are facing growing pay inequity and overall pay that lags the rest of the country.

Adding 4% to all teacher salaries, by, for example, increasing the BEP instructional component, could go a long way toward making Tennessee the fastest-improving state in the nation in teacher pay.

Haslam’s proposal is an important first step down that path. With some help from the General Assembly, Tennessee could make Haslam’s 2013 promise on pay a reality.

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

 

Haslam Really Wants to Raise Teacher Pay

But he probably won’t.

Not in 2015, anyway.

Just yesterday, the Tennessee Education Association called on Haslam to deliver on his teacher pay promise.

But Haslam says the state is out of money and can’t possibly be raising anyone’s pay.

Back in October, Haslam said paying teachers more, “might be a good idea.”

But again, the issue comes back to where to find the money.

Why isn’t there any money?

Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote back in April:

Where’d the Money Go? Governor Haslam blames the $160 million hole in the budget on lower than expected corporate taxes.  However, no mention is made of the $46 million in lost revenue from a 1/2 cent decrease in the state portion of the sales tax on food.  While removing or reducing the sales tax on food is a laudable goal, doing so without finding revenue to replace it is irresponsible.  The sales tax on food is the most reliable portion of state revenue. Additional revenue is lost by the gradual phase out of Tennessee’s estate tax, previously impacting estates over $1 million.  The plan is to phase that out entirely by 2016, with an estimated revenue loss of around $30 million this year and around $97 million in 2016-17′s budget. So, that’s roughly $76 million, or close to half of the projected shortfall for the upcoming budget cycle. To his credit, Haslam says he wants to hold off on efforts to repeal the Hall tax on investment income – a tax paid by a small number of wealthy Tennesseans with investment income.  However, he has also said reducing or eliminating the Hall tax is a goal. Phasing out the tax, as proposed in legislation under consideration this year at the General Assembly, would mean a loss of $20 million in the 2015-16 budget year and an ultimate loss in state funds of $160 million a year and in local revenue of $86 million a year.

The interesting thing is, overall revenue collection is UP in Tennessee for the first three months of FY2015.

Yes, collections for certain corporate taxes contiue to fall, but despite this, overall revenue keeps going up.

Here’s the breakdown based on reports from the Department of Revenue:

Month          Overall Increase               Sales Tax Increase

July                 2.4%                                          3.1%

August         3.7%                                            6.7%

Sept.            7.4%                                            5.3%

Oct.              5.7%                                           7.3%

 

So, net revenue is up before any tax loopholes that are allowing business tax revenue to escape are closed.

If that trend continues, it would seem difficult for Haslam to keep making the argument that there’s just no money available to invest in schools.

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

 

 

Shelby County Schools Seek More State Funding

The Commercial Appeal reports that the Shelby County School Board has passed a resolution asking the state to properly fund public schools through the state’s BEP funding formula.

The board is asking the state to pay $10,000 more toward teacher salaries and fund 12 months of insurance premiums for district staff, instead of 10. The requests are also the top recommendations from the state Basic Education review committee from last year.

If the two requests were funded, SCS would receive $99.5 million in state funding, enough to give teachers the biggest raise they’ve had in years, while also offsetting the cost of monthly insurance premiums. The cost for the year now is spread over 10 months.

For more than two decades, the state has paid health insurance on a 10-month basis. Last year, the cost to cover 12 months was estimated at $60.4 million. This year’s estimate is $64 million.

In 2007, the state attempted to address the BEP funding shortfall by passing BEP 2.0, but that program has never been fully-funded.

Tennessee consistently ranks at or near the bottom of the country in terms of per pupil spending. Additionally, Tennessee’s teacher salaries consistently grow at a pace below the national average.

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