Nashville, TN — The Lee Administration will delay an increase in the State Minimum Salary Schedule for teachers in the 2020-2021 school year, citing financial concerns for local governments caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee proposed a $2,000 schedule increase impacting approximately one in ten Tennessee teachers.
“As the governor pushes a voucher law that was found unconstitutional—and that took money appropriated for teacher compensation to pay a multi-million dollar no-bid voucher contract—he is retreating from the commitment he made to increase salaries of Tennessee’s lowest-paid teachers. This is unacceptable,” said TEA President Beth Brown. “I am a rural teacher who hasn’t seen a raise in years, even as the state increased teacher salary funds. When the governor said he would raise the schedule from $36,000 to $40,000 in two years, it was one step in restoring some equity in salaries. Now he holds on to voucher funding while casting aside hard-working teachers. We will fight this.”
The General Assembly has the final determination on what is funded and where taxpayer dollars are spent. When they return June 1, TEA calls on lawmakers to defund the voucher program and use those taxpayer dollars to support an increase in the schedule, and to ensure every classroom has a teacher and every school has a nurse.
The state board has the final determination on the minimum salary schedule. TEA calls on board members to raise the schedule by the original 5 percent, or at minimum wait until the General Assembly has adjourned to see what salary funds are appropriated to set an increase.
“Teachers making the state minimum do the same job as those who are better paid in other districts. They need comparable salaries, and that is why TEA continues the fight on protecting and improving the schedule,” said Brown.
There is $59 million preserved in the state budget for teacher raises, an increase of 2%. When lawmakers come back to adjust budgets to meet lost revenue from COVID-19, TEA will be fighting to preserve those needed and earned salary funds.
TEA has defeated past attempts to eliminate the minimum salary schedule from Tennessee law, and has fought for years to increase its effectiveness.
In the 2002 Small School III ruling, the Tennessee Supreme Court found it is unconstitutional to have gross disparity in teacher salaries. TEA research shows disparity in teacher pay is approaching what the court found unconstitutional. The association will pursue all options available going forward to ensure teachers are paid a professional salary.