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.
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.
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