Eight months after Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam made headlines by announcing more than $200 million in new funding for teacher salaries, some of the state’s teachers have complained that they still haven’t seen promised pay raises, reports The Tennessean. But a report by the state’s comptroller asserts that those new funds need not necessarily translate into pay raises for teachers. Instead, according to the report, it’s up to districts to decide how that money is doled out.
“When districts receive larger [Basic Education Program] allocations in the instructional category, they determine to what extent this additional funding is spent on increasing pay for staff already employed, on compensation for new staff, or a combination of the two,” the report asserted.
So while the state budget raised the amount allocated to teachers’ salaries from $42,065 to $44,430 in the state’s funding formula, that didn’t bind school districts to increase pay by the difference.
This seems somewhat at odds with the governor’s original speech: “We are also outpacing the national average increase in teacher salaries, and that’s before this year’s investment.” And it’s clearly not how the state’s teachers union interpreted the governor’s announcement at the time.
“The increase really shows that the governor is listening to teachers and beginning to understand the economic hardships they have been facing. It is an encouraging start to a new legislative session to see the administration working hard to find a way to support our hardworking educators,” said Barbara Gray, president of the Tennessee Education Association, earlier this year. “To attract and retain the best teachers, it is crucial that Tennessee stay competitive with neighboring states in teacher pay, something we have been unable to do in recent years.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.