TEA made the 2017 session about getting state raise funds into teacher paychecks. We testified in committees, lobbied legislators and leaders, and pushed across the state for change.
Legislative leaders are responding. On the last session day, House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) and House Finance Ways and Means Chairman Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) sent a letter to Commissioner Candice McQueen and the State Board of Education, outlining the case to drive state funds into teacher salaries.
“We are writing about growing concerns in the General Assembly regarding teacher compensation in Tennessee. Many of our colleagues have found that while the General Assembly has appropriated record increases in state funds for teacher compensation over the past several years, teachers in their district have seen either no or comparably small raises,” wrote the leaders.
“Ten years ago, teacher compensation was increasing at a rate of about 3 percent per year.
The state’s most recent BEP Review Committee report indicates that total teacher compensation has increased by an average of only 1 percent per year over the past two years despite appropriated state increases of 4 percent and 5.6 percent for teacher compensation. That’s exceptionally slow growth given the resources we’ve dedicated on both the pay and insurance fronts.”
The letter references the May 5 BEP review committee meeting, where the state admitted TEA is correct on slow salary growth. Harwell and Sargent then point to a cause of this slow growth.
“We’ve also been informed in the past two years the State Board of Education has increased the state minimum salary schedule for teachers by 2 percent and 3 percent respectively, approximately one-half the allocation provided by the General Assembly. There is little doubt the smaller increases have negatively impacted teacher compensation growth, especially the lowest paid teachers who in many cases pay the most for health insurance.”
“For FY2017-18, the General Assembly again is providing significant new money for teacher compensation. The budget includes $104 million to fund a 4 percent increase. We are eager to see the State Board of Education take this into account when approving the minimum salary schedule for 2017-18. All of us need to be committed to improving teacher compensation so we can reward the educators who are making a difference across our state. We trust you will take this information into account this June as you make your decision on the state minimum salary schedule.”
The goal for TEA is to see the state minimum salary schedule increase by 4 percent, driving state dollars into paychecks, not other school budget items. Now that key legislative leaders are involved, and with a concerted effort across the state, pressure on the department and board will increase.
The state board, with a recommendation from the department, makes the decision on the salary schedule. The next board meeting is May 24.