Tennessee May Never Have Highest Teacher Salaries, But Governor Wants To Raise Pay Fastest

Said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, "These teachers deserve our respect; they deserve our gratitude for their work and their commitment.  But I also know that too often, we tend to use gratitude as a substitute for compensation.  And gratitude only goes so far.  We know from national teacher salary data that teacher pay in Tennessee has lagged the national average for many years, and fixing this is not going to happen overnight." (Credit WPLN / Daniel Potter)

Said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, “These teachers deserve our respect; they deserve our gratitude for their work and their commitment. But I also know that too often, we tend to use gratitude as a substitute for compensation. And gratitude only goes so far. We know from national teacher salary data that teacher pay in Tennessee has lagged the national average for many years, and fixing this is not going to happen overnight.” (Credit WPLN / Daniel Potter)

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.

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