NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State lawmakers are speaking out against a proposal by the state Department of Education they believe would eventually hurt teacher salaries in Tennessee.
Democratic leaders held a press conference on Thursday to oppose the measure that seeks to change the minimum teacher salary schedule.
They note the proposal would reduce steps in salary increases from 21 to four and eliminate incentives for doctorate degrees and post-master’s training.
House Minority Leader Crag Fitzhugh said the proposal could deter individuals looking to teach in Tennessee.
“I don’t know that we can get career teachers anymore,” said the Ripley Democrat.
Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is scheduled to present the proposal to the State Board of Education on Friday.
Hyffman said in an email that it’s against the law for any Tennessee school district to cut a teacher’s salary, and that Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has added more than $130 million in state money for teacher salaries over the past three years.
State officials say the proposed schedule provides school districts with more latitude to create compensation plans that meet their local needs.
“We will continue to look for ways to increase teacher pay, decrease state mandates and increase local control of school decisions,” Huffman said.
And here’s an excerpt from Rick Locker’s report:
The current schedule lists minimum pay levels for teachers statewide for each year of teaching up to year 21 and for five different levels of degrees attained. The 135 school districts are free to pay above the minimums. Clay, Hancock and Pickett counties pay at the minimum; 20 districts pay within 2 percent of the minimum and about half pay within 10 percent.
But all districts use the schedule’s basic framework of 21 annual step increases and five different levels of education: bachelor’s degree, master’s, master’s plus at least 30 hours of additional college credit, education specialist and doctoral degrees.
The Huffman plan would compress the schedule to four steps — $30,876 base for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree, get base plus $570 in year two, base plus $3,190 in year six and base plus $6,585 in year 11. Teachers with any level of advanced degree would start at a base $34,291, get base plus $7,030 raise in year six and base plus $10,890 in year 11.
Under the current schedule, minimum teacher pay tops out at 21 years (they may still receive pay raises locally but they’re not mandated by the state). The Huffman plan would top out at 11 years.
Note: News release below.
News release from House Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democrats joined together to speak out against a proposal by the Haslam administration to cut teacher pay in Tennessee.
“If we are ever going to raise Tennessee’s educational standards, we must make our state more attractive to highly qualified, professional teachers,” said Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville). “Instead, Commissioner Huffman and the corporate special interests bankrolling the so-called ‘education reform’ movement have set their sights once again on attacking our public school teachers.”
Commissioner Huffman will present his proposed changes to the minimum teacher salary schedule to the State Board of Education on Friday, June 21. The new proposal will reduce steps in salary increases from 21 to four and eliminate incentives for doctorate degrees and post-masters training.
“Our teachers are this state’s greatest resource,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “Something this administration and self-proclaimed education reformers still fail to grasp is that putting teachers last will not put students first.”
“If this proposal goes forward, Governor Haslam will be breaking the state’s promise to thousands of teachers across the state,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “Teachers have invested their precious time and money into obtaining further education with the promise that they would be adequately compensated. Now, teachers are going to be left with thousands in debt and a broken promise from the state.”