Gold Strike

If Tennessee teachers really want to improve the state’s overall investment in schools, including in teacher compensation, they may need to walk off the job.

A new study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicates that in states that have seen recent teacher protests, investment in public education has improved significantly.

More from Chalkbeat:


In four states where teachers walked out of their classrooms in protest last year, education spending is up, helping to make up for deep cuts in those states in the wake of the Great Recession.


That’s according to a new analysis that suggests the walkouts and strikes made a difference in Oklahoma, Arizona, West Virginia, and North Carolina. The report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank, found that baseline state funding jumped 19 percent in Oklahoma last year, while North Carolina and West Virginia both saw 3 percent upticks.

Tennessee’s overall investment in public education is 44th nationally and we actually spend less per pupil in inflation-adjusted dollars than we did in 2010. Additionally, the rate of pay increases for our teachers is relatively small and lags behind the national average:


Average teacher salaries in the United States improved by about 4% from the Haslam Promise until this year. Average teacher salaries in Tennessee improved by just under 2% over the same time period. So, since Bill Haslam promised teachers we’d be the fastest improving in teacher pay, we’ve actually been improving at a rate that’s half the national average. No, we’re not the slowest improving state in teacher pay, but we’re also not even improving at the average rate.

It seems unlikely this will change until policymakers are made uncomfortable. One sure way to cause discomfort is through a massive protest or job action. Tennessee teachers who are tired of the status quo may well need to take to the streets to see real change for them and for their students.

daguerreotype, circa 1852, on display as part of ‘ California Gold Rush’. The Jaunts column will pay a visit to the California Oil Museum in Santa Paula previewing the new exhibit, California Gold Rush. DIGITAL IMAGE SHOT ON 10.31.2000 (Photo by Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

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A Failed Business Plan


Nashville teacher JH Rogen offers a Twitter thread on the entirely predictable teacher pay crisis facing Nashville (and, frankly, the rest of Tennessee). It starts like this:

I’m starting a business and looking for workers. The work is intense, so the workers should be highly skilled. Experience preferred. Starting salary is 40k with the opportunity to get all the way to 65k after 25 years of staying in the same position. See how dumb that sounds?

 

He adds:

You say: talking about salary shows an ignorance towards the economic situation many of our kids come from. I say: offering salaries so low that kids have classrooms run by computers instead of functional adults shows an ignorance towards what it takes to create great schools.

 

Read it all. Think about it.

Nashville offers relatively low salaries to teachers in a state that trails the region and the nation in teacher pay. The value proposition for teachers in our state is low. We offer bargain basement salaries to educators and then demand more and more from them.

Is that a recipe for success? Does it demonstrate that we put our children first?

Think about it.

We hear all the time that “kids matter” and we should worry about the concerns of the students in the room rather than the adults. But the adults are sending a clear message: Schools don’t matter. The teachers don’t matter. It’s not important to pay those who are entrusted with the care and education of our children a reasonable salary.

Do you think the kids haven’t noticed?

They have and they do.

Will anything change?

Maybe if there’s a strike. At least for a little while. But how long would a strike go on until teachers were told to get back to class “for the kids?” Meanwhile, the policymakers sit back in comfort and refuse to make so-called “tough decisions” that should be easy.

It should be easy to pay teachers a living wage and to invest in and support schools. But instead, our policy leaders play games and hope we don’t notice.

It WOULD be easy to pay teachers a living wage if our leaders — our policymakers really wanted to do that. But they don’t. Because the adults who elect them haven’t insisted on it. Because it doesn’t matter.

Yes, the kids in the schools are watching. They see what’s happening.

The message is clear.

 

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