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TEA: Proposed Change Would Hit Tennessee Teachers in the Pocketbook

PHOTO: The Board of Education is consider a proposal that would lower the State Minimum Salary Schedule for teachers for the first time in Tennessee history. CREDIT: Liz Marie
PHOTO: The Board of Education is consider a proposal that would lower the State Minimum Salary Schedule for teachers for the first time in Tennessee history. CREDIT: Liz Marie
June 20, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The State Board of Education is to meet Friday to consider a proposal that opponents say would have a negative impact on teachers, schools and communities.

The plan would gut the existing State Minimum Salary Schedule for educators, meaning decreased lifetime earnings, said Mitchell Johnson, interim executive director of the Tennessee Education Association.

"Over a teacher's career, it is going to lessen the amount of money that that teacher will get," Johnson said. "Of course, you have to understand that Tennessee is 44th in the nation in funding per student as it is. Included in that figure is the amount paid for teacher salaries."

In addition to reducing the number of pay steps from 21 to four, Mitchell said, the proposal would collapse the number of advanced-degree categories, leaving no incentive for teachers to seek advanced degrees beyond a master's.

"For those individuals who would have an interest of possibly seeking knowledge and training ... and being compensated for that," hs said. "the proposed salary schedule does not do that."

Supporters say the new schedule will better align compensation by allowing schools the flexibility to reward teachers based on student outcomes. That idea is flawed, Mitchell said, since 60 percent of teachers in the state are not currently evaluated individually with test results.

"They either have to rely on school-wide data or system-wide data in order for them to even be given a test ranking," he said, "and so that's inherently unfair to them and doesn't reflect their real ability as a teacher."

If approved, it would mark the first time in Tennessee history that the State Minimum Salary Schedule has been lowered.

The state board's meeting agenda is online at tn.gov/sbe.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TN