Board of Education Goes Along With Huffman’s Teacher Pay Plan

The State Board of Education on Friday approved controversial major revisions of the state’s minimum salary schedule for teachers that sharply reduces the value of experience and advanced degrees, reports Rick Locker.
The board approved the changes sought by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration on a 6-3 vote despite opposition by teachers who packed the meeting room. They said the new plan could freeze their salaries at their 11th year in the profession. The plan proposed by State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman tops out at year 11, while the current plan tops out at year 21.
The current salary schedule lists the minimum annual salaries for teachers for each year of experience through 21 years and for each of five levels of college degrees they hold. The new minimum schedule lists only four pay levels based on years of experience up through the 11th year, and only two levels of college degrees — bachelor’s and any level of advanced degree.
The state’s 135 local school boards are free under the law to pay their teachers more, as all but three rural districts do. But about half the districts pay within 10 percent of the state-required minimums.
The board approved the plan at the urging of Huffman’s Department of Education despite requests to delay a vote by the Tennessee Education Association and the vice chairman of the state legislature’s House Education Committee, Republican Rep. John Forgety of Athens, the former superintendent of his county school district.
Arlington Middle School teacher Barbara Gray, vice president of TEA, told the board that teachers have “serious concern” about the plan. “These changes could seriously damage teaching careers and increase the inequity between the rich and the poor school systems,” she said. “The overall effect of the changes proposed is a substantial lowering of state requirements for teacher salaries.
“While no teacher will see a cut in their current salary, they may also never see another raise, resulting in drastically decreased lifetime earnings.”
Huffman lashed out at critics of the plan and media reports that it advanced under the radar with little public notice or discussion. A
“Tennessee law forbids any district from cutting an individual teachers salary,” Huffman told the board. “Two, there is more state money in the budget for salaries than at any time in Tennessee history. The state has added $130 million in taxpayer money over the last three years to the budget that goes to districts that has to be spent on compensation.
“Three, the proposed minimum salary schedule does not tell districts how to pay teachers. It gives almost complete autonomy to local districts to decide how to pay teachers. So anyone who says that this pay system does this over, that is just not accurate. Local districts are going to develop their own systems on how this gets implemented.”

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