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.
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