Teacher Pay Raises in Dickson County

While the Dickson County School Board has submitted a proposed budget featuring $1500 raises for teachers, at least one County Commissioner has floated the idea of $5000 raises – at an additional cost of $3.5 million in a $70 million budget.

The Tennessean has more:

Dickson County teachers are already getting a $1,500 raise in the proposed school district budget, which was presented by Schools Director Dr. Danny Weeks in budget committee meetings this month.

During the review, County Commissioner Jeff Eby suggested moving the teacher raises to $5000.

Eby then suggested $5,000 raises for all teachers, which he estimated to cost about $3.5 million. 

It was pointed out the County Commission cannot make line-item adjustments to the school system’s budget. They can, however, send the budget back to the School Board with suggested revisions.

Mayor Bob Rial said the budget increase for a $5,000 raise would equate to a 25-cent property tax increase in Dickson County. 

The move in Dickson County comes during budget season and at a time when other middle Tennessee districts are raising teacher pay.

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Is That All?

Memphis-Shelby County Schools has a new budget proposal that offers teachers a 2% raise plus a $1500 retention bonus.

While this sounds nice – it IS more money, it really begs the question: Is that all?

Chalkbeat has more on the details of the nearly $2 billion budget proposal:

Memphis-Shelby County Schools teachers would receive a 2% pay raise and $1,500 retention bonuses as part of the $1.93 billion proposed budget approved by school board members Tuesday.

Fulfilling Superintendent Joris Ray’s promises earlier this year to invest in educators, the 2022-23 budget would also funnel nearly $12 million into educators’ tiered pay scale and add a new step on the scale for principals.

The budget, passed on a 5-0 vote, also directs $3.5 million to bump up the district’s contribution to employee health insurance premiums to 70% from 66%, and $3 million to raises for substitute teachers. 

While a 2% raise and a $1500 salary increase are nice moves, that’s simply not enough.

It’s unfortunate that Bill Lee’s TISA plan and current funding scheme aren’t dedicating more to public schools We currently have a surplus in excess of $3 billion at the state level and yet still struggle to fund public schools.

It’s a matter of priorities.

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Wilson County Proposes New Pay Scale

The Wilson County School Board approved a proposed budget that includes a move away from teacher pay based on test scores. According to the plan, all teachers will receive at least a $500 raise in the upcoming school year.

The Wilson Post has more on the story:

“We took the plans we’re competing with, laid them down and came out with something we can have in our budget,” he (Director of Schools Jeff Luttrell) said, noting that the district has budgeted $3.4 million in employee raises, with the majority going to classroom teachers.

He said, “one of the things I’ve heard and believe is that pay does not need to be tied to one day of testing. This takes us off that plan.”

The current Wilson County pay scale is based on teacher “level of effectiveness” (LOE) as determined by evaluations and state test scores.

Yes, THOSE scores – the ones based on TNReady.

It’s interesting that the projected pay increase is relatively small ($500) and that the overall funding for salary improvement is just over $3 million.

By contrast, neighboring Sumner County seems likely to commit $18 million this year to a pay increase that will mean a $4000+ raise for all teachers.

It’s also noteworthy that Gov. Bill Lee’s school funding plan (TISA) is unlikely to actually provide significant new state funds to boost teacher pay across the board.

It is definitely positive that Wilson County is moving away from a pay for test score model – that is a step in the right direction.

It’s likely frustrating to educators (and the one School Board member who opposed the move – a former educator) that the plan is not a more significant move in the direction of raising pay.

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Hamblen County School Board Hears Proposal for 2% Raise for Teachers

The Hamblen County School Board heard a proposal from that district’s Director of Schools that would provide teachers with a 2% raise next year. If approved, the budget with the raises would mean a deficit of nearly $1 million – leaving the County Commission to find revenue to make up the difference.

The Morristown Citizen-Tribune has the full story:

The Hamblen County Board of Education unveiled a first draft Tuesday of a budget that has a nearly $1 million shortfall and a 2% raise for staff amidst inflation that is hovering around 8%.

The budget comes after a year that saw a commitment by the governor’s office to put an extra billion dollars into education across the state and record tax revenue generated in Hamblen County.

Perry said he hopes future years might be easier to manage as a new statewide funding formula is implemented to replace the current BEP formula that is considered overly-complicated by many education administrators across the state.

“But we don’t build budgets from hope,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re responsible this year- it does look like we might be able to take care of folks a little bit better that following year.”

Unfortunately, the reality of TISA is that it does little to address the state’s funding shortfall when it comes to teacher compensation.

After hearing the budget presentation, members of the school board indicated a desire to see a 4% raise. The discussion led to conversations about future budget meetings/workshops in order to explore options for raising teacher pay beyond the recommended 2%.

It’s not clear whether there is an appetite on the County Commission to provide the $1 million+ needed to fund the proposed raises.

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Sumner County Proposes Big Raises for Teachers, Staff

At a budget workshop last night, the Sumner County School Board heard a proposal from Director of Schools Dr. Del Phillips that would result in significant pay raises for the system’s teachers and support staff.

The move comes as Sumner County is attempting to be competitive in the Middle Tennessee market. It marks the second time in the past four years that the district’s teachers have seen a raise of at least $4000 to their base pay.

This year’s proposed raises, to be voted on by the School Board next week (May 17th) and the County Commission in June, include:

Step raises for all teachers plus a $4000 increase to the base for each step. Step raises range from 1-2% of pay.

Step raises (2%) plus $1 an hour for all hourly employees.

An average increase of $7/hour for bus drivers and an increase in bus driver starting pay from $12.12 an hour to $18/hour.

An increase in pay for substitute teachers from $51 to $75/day for non-degreed subs, from $75 to $100 for degreed subs, and from $100 to $125 for certified subs.

Sumner’s proposed pay increase comes a year after Metro Nashville significantly increased teacher pay and just months after Williamson County implemented a mid-year pay raise.

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The Teacher Wage Gap Persists

Economic Policy Institute is out with a survey of teacher compensation relative to other, similarly educated professionals. The news continues to be bad for teachers nationally. Teachers earn roughly 20% less than comparably educated professionals on average. In Tennessee, that number is 21.4%.

Notes: Figure reports state-specific regression-adjusted teacher weekly wage penalties: how much less, in percentage terms, elementary, middle, and secondary public school teachers earn in weekly wages than their college-educated, nonteaching peers.
See Allegretto and Mishel 2019, especially Appendix A, for more details.
Source: Authors’ analysis of pooled 2014–2019 Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group data accessed via EPI Current Population Survey Extracts, Version 1.0.2 (EPI 2020).

That’s not good news. Especially in light of a worsening teacher shortage crisis.

It’s especially bad news in light of TISA – Gov. Bill Lee’s new school funding formula. While Lee and his allies would have you believe otherwise, TISA does nothing to significantly invest in teachers. There’s no significant adjustment to teacher minimum salaries and nothing in TISA directly results in hiring more teachers. This is disappointing since a state review suggests districts hire a total of 7000+ more teachers than the state funds.

Here’s more on the TISA reality:

Here’s more from EPI on what the teacher wage gap means in states across the country:

The teacher wage penalty has grown substantially since the mid-1990s. The teacher wage penalty is how much less, in percentage terms, public school teachers are paid in weekly wages relative to other college-educated workers (after accounting for factors known to affect earnings such as education, experience, and state residence). The regression-adjusted teaching wage penalty was 6.0% in 1996. In 2019, the penalty was 19.2%, reflecting a 2.8 percentage-point improvement compared with a penalty of 22.0% a year earlier.

The wage premium that women teachers experienced in the 1960s and 1970s has been replaced by a significant wage penalty. As noted in our previous research, women teachers enjoyed a 14.7% wage premium in 1960, meaning they were paid 14.7% more than comparably educated and experienced women in other occupations. In 2019, women teachers were earning 13.2% less in weekly wages than their nonteaching counterparts were—a 27.9 percentage-point swing over the last six decades.

The benefits advantage of teachers has not been enough to offset the growing wage penalty. The teacher total compensation penalty was 10.2% in 2019 (composed of a 19.2% wage penalty offset by a 9.0% benefits advantage). The bottom line is that the teacher total compensation penalty grew by 7.5 percentage points from 1993 to 2019.

It’s interesting that this problem is not getting significantly better, even as districts across Tennessee and around the country are dealing with both a teacher exodus and a lack of candidates to replace them.

It’s also interesting that even with a relatively stable, secure benefits package, the teacher wage gap continues to expand over time. It should be noted that in Tennessee, teacher pensions were “reformed” in 2014 and teachers hired since then now have a significantly smaller retirement package.

It’s also worth noting here that Tennessee teachers have the lowest pension benefit of any of our neighboring states.

As the study by SREB notes, Tennessee teachers earn about $10,000 less per year in retirement than their neighbors in other Southern states.

TISA could have been a way to change all of that – to vastly improve teacher compensation and make Tennessee a national leader in both pay and support for teachers.

Instead, the one-time raise offered by the plan will amount to about a 2.5% increase this year. Teacher pay in Tennessee will continue to lag behind other states in our region. Teachers here will continue to earn 21% less than their comparably educated peers.

Year after year, policymakers look at a growing problem and then just look away. Even in a year with a massive budget surplus, Tennessee leaders have made a clear statement that investing in teachers is not a priority.

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The South is Low – TN is Lower

The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) is out with a report on teacher compensation across the region. Not surprisingly, teacher compensation in the South is about 16% below the national average. Of course, Tennessee teacher compensation lags behind even the average in our region. We are low in a region that is low.

Not only is Tennessee behind other states when it comes to compensation, but Tennessee also has the lowest annual pension benefit for retired teachers. So, we pay teachers at a rate that is somewhat below average and in retirement, our teachers earn less than all their counterparts in our neighboring states.

The average pension in Tennessee is $29,000 while in the region it is $39,000.

SREB actually recommends an overhaul of retirement systems to support a more portable retirement plan. That said, it’s not exactly encouraging to teachers when they see both low pay and relatively low benefits.

As SREB notes:

Higher salaries alone can’t address teacher shortages
— but they can help. Many SREB states have work to do to catch
up with regional and national averages.

And as it relates to retirement:

Retirement should pay better. Most professionals don’t stay in one career anymore.
States can save money and help teachers build more retirement savings through optional portable investment plans. States should bring teachers to the table to build new options.

Of course, this news is important as our state faces a growing teacher shortage crisis.

If only our state had a huge budget surplus AND a pending redesign of the school funding formula. It would seem a perfect opportunity to hire more teachers, provide them with excellent compensation, and give them the tools for a secure retirement.

Unfortunately, Gov. Bill Lee’s TISA plan does none of those things.

Here’s how we know this plan won’t boost student achievement. First, it does nothing to shore up the shortage of teachers needed to adequately support students now. That is, according to both TACIR and the Comptroller, Tennessee districts hire MORE teachers (11,000 more, to be exact) than the current formula funds. Guess what? TISA does nothing to change that. There is no indication that the weights will mean more teachers hired and supported by state funding.

Next, TISA does nothing to boost overall teacher pay. Sure, TISA “allows” lawmakers to earmark certain funds to give raises to “existing” teachers, but that doesn’t mean they will. Nor does it mean those raises will be significant. This year’s $125 million set aside for teacher compensation will mean what is effectively a 2-3% raise for most teachers. Based on current inflation rates and rising insurance premiums, this essentially amounts to a pay cut.

When it is time for evaluating organizations to release reports on school funding and teacher compensation, it’s best to start at the bottom of the list if you want to find Tennessee.

Bill Lee has done nothing to change that so far as Governor and his new funding plan continues to leave us as among the lowest of the low.

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1000 Cuts

A Williamson County teacher explains what it is like to be a teacher in Tennessee right now:

https://twitter.com/TheTNHoller/status/1494768171294863362?s=20&t=HdIBTWSPVC6Z8btGFt1UlA

Of course, the legislature is responding in the only way they know how:

This type of attack has been going on for more than a decade now:

Make no mistake. These cuts are intentional. The forces of privatization are using all the tools to erode the teaching profession and set public schools up to fail. The nail in the coffin will likely be a new state funding formula that paves a path for a voucher scheme.

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A Feature, Not a Bug

In his State of the State Address, Gov. Bill Lee had this to say about funds he’s dedicating to teacher compensation:

We should raise teacher pay this year by $125 million, which is a well-deserved increase into the teacher salary pool.

Historically, funds put in the salary pool don’t always make it to deserving teachers. When we say teachers are getting a raise, there should be no bureaucratic workaround to prevent that.

This statement implies that there is some sort of trickery going on at the local level to divert state dollars intended for teacher pay. It’s deflection and blame-shifting. The reality is that the state underfunds teaching positions. By a lot.

In fact, as Lee surely knows, the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) issued a report suggesting the state underfunds schools by $1.7 billion.

That report noted:

 “In fiscal year 2018-19, the BEP funding formula generated a total of 62,888 licensed instructional positions, but school systems employed a total of 69,633 with state and local revenue.”

“Although the changes made in 1992 and since have resulted in substantial increases in funding to support the BEP, meeting local needs and the requirements imposed by the state and federal governments often requires more resources than the BEP funding formula alone provides. Consequently, state and local funding in fiscal year 2017-18 totaled $2.1 billion over and above what was required by the BEP formula, including a total of $1.7 billion in local revenue.”

In other words, Lee knows that adding $125 million to teacher compensation WITHOUT also increasing the total number of positions funded means that money won’t result in a meaningful raise for current teachers. Instead, districts will use the teacher compensation money to fund positions NOT contemplated by the current formula.

So, here’s the real question: Will Lee’s proposed new formula result in the addition of 7,000-10,000 MORE teachers?

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Is it Anything?

Last night, Gov. Bill Lee delivered his State of the State Address and revealed at least some details related to school funding formula reform. Of note is the promise to increase state investment in public schools by $1 billion effective in the 2024 fiscal year and contingent on a new funding formula. This year, teachers will see $125 million in new money for salaries, which equates to a roughly 5% pay raise – or, at least a 5% increase in what is provided to local government for teacher compensation. Effectively, this will result in a salary increase of 2-3%.

$1 billion in new money is long overdue. It’s also about half of what the state needs to adequately fund public schools. Depending on how it is distributed in any new formula, it could amount to little in terms of significant improvement. Then again, it very well could be the start of something positive. Those who watch Tennessee education policy over time (like me) are likely skeptical. As always, the devil is in the details.

In fact, Tennessee Education Association President Beth Brown issued a statement on the proposal:

“Any increase in K12 spending is a step in the right direction. TEA is eager to see more details on the $1 billion in new recurring spending on public education Gov. Lee announced in his State of the State address.  It is a needed and warranted increase, but we do not yet see that reflected in the budget document released today.

Our students and educators are struggling right now because of a lack of resources. State leaders must stop stuffing cash into mattresses while students go without materials and programs they need for a quality education and underpaid educators are asked to do the job of six people while also buying their own classroom supplies.  

It does not have to be this way and we are hopeful the governor’s remarks tonight indicate a shift from the chronic underfunding that has plagued public education in our state. Tennessee can afford a significant increase in recurring investment in our students, educators and public schools immediately, without raising taxes.” 

If the $1 billion does materialize, it should be noted that not only is it significantly less than what is needed, but also that our state has the funds ($3 billion+ surplus) to fully close the funding gap. That Lee is not proposing $2 billion in more in funding when that money is absolutely available may well indicate that our state will continue its historic pattern of underfunded public schools.

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