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Tennessee’s Teachers Worry Benefits Package May Be Absent From Budget

May 1, 2008

Nashville, TN – Better pay, less expensive health insurance and a more solid retirement plan -- those are top priorities on the minds of Tennessee teachers. But the state's weakening economy could mean cuts in the proposed Basic Education Plan that funds teacher compensation, depending on the outcome of a State Funding Board meeting today.

Dr. Earl Wiman, president of the Tennessee Education Association, says without a good salary and insurance package, many of the state's educators will be absent from classes starting this fall.

"The money that is in the budget is crucial to help us retain quality teachers and to recruit quality teachers in Tennessee."

At today's Funding Board meeting, lawmakers will be taking a close look at the two percent raise promised to teachers in the January budget. But any type of education cuts, Wiman insists, will only weaken the economy further.

"In order to attract industry, to help us have a better economy, we've got to have an educated workforce."

Wiman says currently, Tennessee loses half of all its new teachers in their first five years on the job, and many others retire early, seeking better-paying teaching positions in other states.

Deborah Smith/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - TN