Teacher Shortage Crisis Continues

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

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