It’s a sad week for Tennessee teachers and students because, last Friday afternoon, the Tennessee State Board of Education approved Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to cut teacher salaries.

The measure approved by the board removes scheduled pay increases for veteran teachers and eliminates incentives for educators who earn advanced degrees. Gov. Haslam’s administration has repeatedly claimed these changes will not negatively effect teacher salaries.

Yet this weekend, The Jackson Sun reported:

“In Jackson-Madison County, a starting teacher can earn about $33,000. Under the state-approved minimum salary schedule, a starting teacher would earn nearly $3,000 less. Jackson-Madison County Schools outgoing Superintendent Buddy White said he’s concerned the new salary schedule could have a negative impact on teacher recruitment.”

It is difficult to see how driving down teaching wages will assist Tennessee in attracting and retaining the best educators to prepare our children for the jobs of the future.

One of Haslam’s first decisions as governor was to give pay raises to his top deputies. Haslam defended the pay raises — $43,ooo for one commissioner and a full salary for many teachers — to the Associated Press:

“In government we’re never going to pay what they do in the private market,” he said. “But if we’re going to attract great people, we’re going to have to at least make it comparable.”

Rep. Gloria Johnson

Rep. Gloria Johnson

Leading up the board’s decision Friday, Rep. Gloria Johnson made that exact comparison, saying Haslam’s philosophy is backward on education. From her remarks:

“If our number one goal is student achievement, than we should be finding ways to recruit and retain the teachers who value the goal of lifelong learning — not cutting salaries or driving down benefits.

“In the private sector, when businesses want to attract top talent, they invest in good salaries and good benefits. In fact, when Governor Haslam took office, one of his first moves was to secretly increase salaries for his top deputies. His reasoning? So he could recruit top talent.

“Yet on public education, Governor Haslam and Commissioner Huffman have it completely backward.

“The last thing we should be doing is cutting the salaries of teachers, or we’ll drive the best and brightest away from teaching our kids.”

 

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