Tennessee Education Association

Great Public Schools for All Students


We must prioritize equity in pay and leadership

By TEA Executive Director Terrance Gibson | The fight for increased public education funding is not a new one. When you look back over the association’s 155-plus years of advocacy, there is a common thread of the fight for more resources. This is why we talk about “chronic under-funding.”

Tennessee’s public schools have been starving for investment from the state for decades, but the pandemic further exacerbated the problem in many ways. I have had a front- row seat for the past year, witnessing the lengths to which teachers have been asked to go during this pandemic. Educators have met every challenge and gone above and beyond to not only ensure students continue to learn, but also to care for the health and wellbeing of students.

There are many funding needs, but increased compensation for educators must not be overlooked. Longer hours, additional stress and new responsibilities have been piled on educators over the past year. It is time for state leaders to do their part and provide funding for a significant increase for teacher salaries.

I know I am preaching to the choir when I tell you that women make up the majority of our profession, and that professions dominated by women are historically paid less than male-dominated fields. Approximately 75% of public school educators in our country are women, and the number is going up nearly every year. Meanwhile, men make up about 60% of public education leadership roles – the higher paying positions.

As we move into Women’s History Month, I want to renew our focus on correcting this imbalance and work toward improving teacher salaries, increasing the number of women in leadership roles and improving respect for our profession.

TEA has benefited from a long history of women leaders who have shaped the association into the powerhouse it is today. It is now our job to live up to the standard they have set and continue the work to promote, advocate and lead.

To move legislators to increase the budget for teacher salaries, we must promote the work of Tennessee educators and our commitment to our students! To move school districts to appoint more women to leadership positions, we must advocate for equity in hiring decisions and point out discrimination in the system! To improve public perception of our profession, we must lead our colleagues in loudly proclaiming the great work of Tennessee educators and public schools!

Like I said at the beginning, the funding fight is not new, but let us find inspiration and energy this Women’s History Month from the women leaders who came before us and the ones who now surround us. We must carry on the fight for the funding our students deserve. It is on us to promote, advocate and lead!

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