But the governor was shy on numbers about what this initiative would mean for his budget proposal next year or what he wants salaries to look like by the end of his time in office, saying only it is a “year-to-year deal.”
According to Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, “this isn’t something that’s going to happen in next year’s budget. It’s not going to be fixed. The question is how can we take a good step forward in this year’s budget, but more importantly, every single year put money in the budget so that when we look back at the end and we measure in aggregate over the course of this administration, salaries have grown more.”
Tennessee was among the lowest 15 states in the nation for teacher pay last school year, behind neighboring states like Georgia, Kentucky and Virginia, according to the National Education Association’s December “Rankings and Estimates report. The study estimates classroom teachers averaged a $48,289 salary last year, compared to $56,383 nationwide. Factor in all “instructional staff” like librarians and principals, and that average is $50,607 to the U.S. average of $58,315.
The study also found improvement in teacher salaries here. Tennessee teacher pay has improved 2.6 percent from the 2010-11 school year to 2011-12, according to the report, compared to a .1 percent drop at the national level.
Since Haslam took office, the state has spent $130 million new and recurring dollars toward salary increases for teaching staff, according to his office.
During that same period, the state has implemented and refined new teacher evaluations, made teacher tenure tougher to earn, unhooked teacher pay scales from layers of advanced degrees and linked teacher licensure renewal to teacher evaluations.
“It’s no secret we made a lot of important and hard decisions in the last three years about elevating teaching as a profession,” said Haslam. “It has been hard and those conversations haven’t been easy, but the results are clear,” he said.
While the head of the Tennessee Education Association Gera Summerford said she was pleased with the governor’s promise, she said she’s concerned with whether those raises would reach every teacher once the state has given the money to local school boards to divvy out.