Senate Approves More Money For Teachers, But Not All Tennessee Teachers May Get Raises

The Tennessee Senate Has Approved Nearly $43 Million For Teacher Pay, But The New Money Does Not Mean All Tennessee Teachers Will Get A Raise.

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

Photo: Tennessee state Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, speaks during a special session on education Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn.

Photo Credit: Mark Humphrey / AP

Published January 25, 2021

The Center Square [By Vivian Jones]-

Lawmakers approved a spending bill Thursday to fund bills passed in this week’s education-focused special session. The spending bill includes about $43 million for teacher pay, but it does not specifically provide a salary raise for teachers.

While state lawmakers can allocate funds for teacher pay, Tennessee’s school funding structure does not allow state lawmakers to earmark dollars specifically for teacher raises.

In a Senate Finance Committee meeting Thursday, Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, clarified the funding included in the bill is a set amount, not a salary percentage increase.

“We’re putting $42 million – almost $43 million – in the budget for teacher pay raises. That’s the number,” Johnson said. “It’s not 2%, and it’s not 4%.”

Education funding makes up more than a quarter of the state’s budget. The state funds education through a formula called the Basic Education Program (BEP). The BEP has four channels: teacher pay, benefits, classroom books and supplies, and non-classroom staff, such as busses and maintenance.

The BEP is a funding formula, not a budget dictating how districts spend state dollars. Districts have local autonomy to raise local funds, hire teacher positions beyond those funded through the BEP and determine the salaries teachers receive, including raises.

The $43 million appropriated by the Legislature this week will flow to districts to be used for wages for teachers funded through the BEP.

X-Files Style - The Truth Is Not Out There

In districts with more teachers than are covered in the BEP formula, the new teacher pay dollars won’t go as far as in districts who have hired only teacher positions funded through the BEP.

“So if they’ve used the BEP in the past to hire those teachers plus a lot more, they would then potentially need an 8% increase to their instructional component to cover a 4% [raise] for everybody,” Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said during a committee hearing Thursday. “That is why we can’t have a straight percentage across the state.”

Tennessee is 40th in the nation for average teacher salaries, according to a 2020 analysis by the National Education Association, even though the Legislature has approved more than $300 million in new, recurring funds for teacher salaries between 2015 and 2018.

2019 report on teacher salaries by the Tennessee Office of Research and Education Accountability found most school districts reported giving raises to teachers in recent years, with a 6.2% average teacher salary raise statewide.

Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville, voiced frustration over the salary funding situation during debate on the Senate floor.

“We’re all aware that the BEP formula is not perfect, and that there are some problems with it,” Campbell said. “My concern is that this is just another instance of us attempting to give teachers a raise, and not having it really go into our teachers’ pockets.”

Ultimately, the teacher pay spending bill passed the Senate, 23-5, and is awaiting approval in the House. 

Sen. Janice Bowling of Tullahoma was the lone Republican to oppose the bill.

“I’ve heard directly from hundreds of hundreds of teachers,” Bowling said. “And the teachers do not like the legislation. And I will quote, they are insulted by the small raise.”

Proud Tennessee Conservative

About the Author:

Vivan Jones, The Center Square Staff Reporter

Vivian Jones reports on Tennessee and South Carolina for The Center Square. Her writing has appeared in the Detroit News, The Hill, and publications of The Heartland Institute.

One thought on “Senate Approves More Money For Teachers, But Not All Tennessee Teachers May Get Raises

  • August 13, 2022 at 4:22 pm

    We need to defund public education! They have failed us. At the governor and legislature level and at the local teacher and administrator levels as well! Refund our property taxes! Strip benefits and pensions from educators and politicians. I had to fund my own tiny retirement funding and now inflation is gobbling it up. Why should laborers fund retirements for people working in public service, who earn more than them? The public funding should be so reduced as to force the top heavy administrations to be dissolved, pay lowered across the board for all employees of the state and local governments. No pensions , no early retirements and no say in Nashville, beyond their personal vote in an election. Any government employee that makes political party support statements or push political agendas, should be fired. They can vote but not be active partisans! My wife was a teacher and an employee of a school district. I once supported her and all teachers. Not anymore! They seem to think they are owed our tax money and support , regardless of their performance and results, just because they are “Teachers”! They do not deserve my retirement funds, to fund theirs! Teaching should be close to minimum wage jobs as they are public service, not public entitled class. They are not professionals, as the results of their wrong minded policies are evident and the education that students receive across the state is perverted and diminished by the teachers lack of moral fiber and weakness to subversive messages, that they attempt to pass on to our children! Sure their are good people that are teachers! But they do not control the system and are subject to the tyrants in the teacher unions and in the state legislature, house of clowns. Break them up and take down the institution and start fresh without the unions and teacher organizations, would be a positive step in reforming and reclaiming our children’s minds! No benefits paid by tax dollars for government employees, including teachers. Their hourly pay should be their total compensation! No one paid for my health insurance premiums! We laborers, had to save our Money for retirement and buy our own insurance, while earning typically less than a beginning teacher! Now, I and other seniors that worked as labor most of our lives, have our homes assessed taxes to fund better paying jobs than we had and other benefits we never enjoyed. Anyone who receives less retirement cash benefits than a teachers salary, should be excused paying taxes, before anymore funding of public education!


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