Salaries for Tennessee's public educators rank in the bottom ten of the fifty states. Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said they have a plan that might change that.
Haslam and Huffman, appearing at a Teacher of the Year nomination event in Nashville, outlined a proposal that would boost teacher salaries at the highest rate in the nation. Exactly how he plans to accomplish the feat is uncertain. So too is how much the plan will cost. But on Thursday, Haslam pledged he would not seek tax increases to fund the effort. Instead, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported, he plans to make the teacher salary hike a budget priority.
Following through on the plan will be a multi-year effort, Commissioner Huffman said.
“This is about setting this as a budget priority every year, not just getting a one-time bang," Huffman said Thursday.
Haslam's proposal was announced at a time of great change for the state Department of Education. This past spring, the state Board of Education drew the ire of teachers for doing away with an old pay scale system that guaranteed raises. Now, pay raises will be tied to student performance, which Haslam and Huffman said is improving.
Reactions from both the Tennessee Education Association and state lawmakers was cautious. TEA president Gera Summerford told the Nashville Tennessean that she appreciated the idea, but preferred that raises be attainable for all teachers. Republican Delores Gresham, chair of the state Senate Education Committee, told the paper, “I’ve learned never to predict what the legislature’s going to do, but we’ll be working on it.”