Senator Gardenhire Pushes For Higher Salaries For School Board Members

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

State Senator Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga says he plans to introduce a “pay equity” bill that would stipulate that local school board members receive the same salaries and benefits as members of the county commission and other local government entities.

Gardenhire believes those individuals do not receive fair compensation for the amount of time and work they put into the job, saying they have to make “significant personal and professional sacrifices.”

“Serving on the board of a school district is a huge responsibility and time commitment that comes with making a variety of complex and weighty decisions,” Gardenhire said. “These members are expected to attend meetings, serve on committees, meet with the public and maintain a wide breadth of knowledge on the issues they face as a board.”

State law mandates that school board members receive a minimum of $3 per meeting, but local government can choose to pay them more than that. Gardenhire says that, while some local governments do pay more, the majority of school board members are paid well below the rates of other groups, such as county commissioners.

Gardenhire points to Hamilton County, where many of his constituents reside. While county commissioners are paid somewhere around $25,394 per year and receive additional benefits, school board members only receive approximately half of that, coming in at $12,365.

Gardenhire claims that the work load of school board members is far greater than that of other governing bodies and that the tasks they have to handle are weightier.

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“Most school board members work the same amount of time and sometimes longer hours than their counterparts on the local governing bodies. Our education budget is over half of the county’s total budget, which shows the importance we place on giving our students a quality education. Yet, the school board members who chart the course to carry out that mission receive less than half of the compensation paid to our county commissioners who appropriate education funds. This needs to change, and my bill would put parity and fairness into the system,” Gardenhire states.

Gardenhire does not yet have a House sponsor for the bill.


In response to Gardenhire’s announcement, several Hamilton County public servants noted that their decision to run for office was not about the financial compensation.

Sabrena Smedley, chair of the Hamilton County Commission, says she did not even know what the pay or benefits were until she attended an orientation after she had been elected.

Hamilton County school board chair Tucker McClendon echoed that sentiment.

“No one runs for school board for the pay at all,” McClendon said. “So I think one thing before pay is you have to be passionate about public education and making a difference in the community and driving change within the school system.”

He did, however, praise Gardenhire for his efforts, saying that an increase could be a good way to get more quality people to run for those offices.

“I commend Senator Gardenhire on shedding a light on it, and I wish him success in trying to get it passed,” McClendon said.


About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at

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