Tennessee teachers could be getting a pay raise

Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed budget included funding for raising teachers’ salaries.
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Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 5:06 PM CST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Gov. Bill Lee announced on Monday that he’s proposing legislation to raise the minimum base salary for Tennessee teachers from $41,000 to $50,000 over the next four years.

The Governor set aside $125 million to go towards increasing teachers’ pay. If the proposal passes, the new base salary in the fall of 2027, would be up 42% from 2019, Lee’s first year in office, when the state’s minimum teacher pay was $35,000.

According to State Rep. Gloria Johnson, they have the funding to increase the salaries even more.

“When you take one hundred and twenty five million and divide that by 70,000 teachers, it’s not that much money and the reality is we have $9 billion in cash. We’ve never been in a better situation to make that happen then right now,” said Johnson.

According to J.C. Bowman, Executive Director and CEO of Professional Educators of Tennessee, both new and existing teachers will get the funding. Bowman noted that the funding could also be used to hire new teachers. Considering the amount of teachers leaving the classrooms is happening at an alarming rate.

“If we don’t do something to induce people into the field, we’re going to do a great disservice to the kids,” said Bowman.

Also included in the budget is $350 million in additional funding to local education agencies through Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA), included in that is the $125 million for pay raises. Bowman was thrilled the Lee was making teachers a priority in this budget, but he’s hoping the increase actually happens in a state that ranks towards the bottom in K-12 funding.

“Tennessee teachers have always been a little bit skeptical you know they’ve experienced this before or they’ve been told they were going to get a 3% or a 5% raise and the money never ends up in their pockets,” said Bowman.

There will be a 5% salary pool increase for higher education employees to ensure they attract and retain the best employee base possible if the budget gets approved.

With the current economy, everything is expensive, and Johnson said this increase still doesn’t equate with the cost of living in Tennessee.

Leaders hoped the pay increase will help draw more people into teaching and keep existing teachers in the classrooms.