Governor Bill Haslam says he’s committing to raising teacher salaries faster than any other state. Haslam acknowledged Tennessee teacher pay ranks near the bottom nationally.
Haslam’s long-term goal isn’t exactly to pay teachers the best, so much as to keep raising their pay the fastest, from its relatively low current level. Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman wouldn’t forecast specific numbers, like how much they want teachers to start at. Huffman says that comes later.
“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.”
Huffman has been under fire from school district leaders weary after years of reform efforts. The head of Tennessee’s largest teachers’ union, Gera Summerford, says the salary push shows some recognition the state’s been asking a lot, and that teacher morale has suffered.