So far, a 2% pay increase, but with revenues strong - TEA works for more. Time we pass our neighbor to the south
Last week the governor unveiled the state budget during his State of the State address, and continued to make K-12 investment a top priority. Gov. Haslam highlighted $212 million in new spending, with $55 million is dedicated to teacher pay. This amounts to about a 2 percent increase in state funding for teacher salaries, about half of the growth from last year.
“There is a significant increase in investment for education in the budget, but in order to support the hard working teachers who have made Tennessee one of the fastest improving states in the nation, this budget does not do as much as it can,” said Barbara Gray, president of the Tennessee Education Association. “We’re hopeful that as the economy keeps revenues strong and well above estimates, the state raise for teachers will increase in the final version of the budget. The Haslam administration has done good work in the past, and we’re calling on the governor to continue his strong record of investment in teacher salaries.”
Tennessee lags behind many of its neighbors in average teacher salaries. As a fun way to motivate Haslam and lawmakers, TEA asks them to “Beat Bama” with a larger pay increase.
Tennessee teachers have pulled within $300 a year of the average pay of teachers in Alabama, meaning Tennessee could pass them with a larger increase this year.
With an estimated 3 percent increase in Alabama’s budget, TEA estimates Tennessee will need at least a 4 percent overall state increase to pass our southern neighbor, a cost of $110 million.
“The governor rightly points out we are making bigger gains in academics and graduation, far outpacing our neighbors. I think it’s time teacher compensation matches the achievement,” said Gray.
The rest of the $212 million K-12 increase is spent on student enrollment increases, and inflation for the funding formula. There is an additional $50 million for teacher health insurance and TCRS funding, to ensure the pension system remains the most stable in the nation. There is also $13 million for hiring RTI specialists statewide.
The investment is smaller than last year’s number despite strong revenue growth, including a month of December that saw an incredible $140 million increase over December 2016. In fact, the state revenue is on track to exceed budget projections by more than half a billion dollars this year.
“The governor’s hard work on teacher pay has us tantalizingly close to overtaking Alabama in average teacher salary,” Gray said. “There are few things Tennesseans enjoy more than beating Bama!”
TEA will continue to push hard to secure more money in the budget for teacher salaries, and to continue the ongoing work to ensure it ends up in paychecks.