A $160 Million Legislative Package Approved By Tennessee Lawmakers Aims To Help School Districts Recover From Pandemic-Related Learning Loss, Low Literacy Rates, Etc. However, A Percentage Of The Funds Will Be Used For Raises For Classroom Teachers.
Published February 2, 2021
A $160 million legislative package recently approved by Tennessee lawmakers should help the school districts recover from pandemic related learning loss, as well as low literacy rates and more. The special session lasted for a period of four days, with democratic and Republican lawmakers arguing about if it was too rushed.
While the special session allowed Tennessee lawmakers to address education concerns more closely related to the Covid pandemic, the General Assembly will have a regular session on February 8 to discuss other education proposals.
Local legislators in Hamilton County are asking for Mayor Jim Coppinger, and other school leaders across the district, to increase the salary of classroom teachers.
The legislative package will give Hamilton County schools $42.9 million from the funding. Local lawmakers are asking for any salary raises to be restricted to just “in classroom teachers.”
The county’s five representatives and delegation’s senators are defining this as someone who is licensed to teach and spends at least 50% of their time “on the job instructing students in the classroom or through other instructional means such as online instruction.”
Joe Wingate, school board chairman, Superintendent Bryan Johnson, and other school board members wrote a letter to Coppinger explaining why they felt the funding was intended for the in classroom teachers.
The letter says, “It is our understanding that the Local Education Agency [school district] has the authority to distribute the salary increase to classroom teachers only. Too many times in the past when the Legislature has passed salary increases for classroom teachers, the [school district] has chosen to distribute the pay increase to other personnel including administrative personnel that are far removed from the classroom.”
Out of the funding being allocated to Hamilton County, 2% will be used for raises, which is around $1,884,000.
Senator Todd Gardenhire said in the past, using the district budget for raises has been frustrating, as Tennessee’s Basic Education Program funding formula typically sees it go to administrators who don’t spend time in the classroom.
“Whenever the superintendents, teacher organizations, education associations want more money they always dangle the teachers out there as the reason to give money to all these things,” Gardenhire said. “And when we give the money to them a lot of the classroom teachers never got what they were promised or thought they were promised.”
Gardenhire and lawmaker Mike Carter have just proposed a bill that they originally introduced last year, which would make a law that defines a classroom teacher as someone who is in the class teaching at least 50% of the time.
Gardenhire said, “Nowhere does it define what a classroom is except in the BEP formula, and that’s someone with a teacher certificate. And that can be anybody. It can be administrators, it can be superintendents, it can be principals, it can be counselors, you name it.”
Johnson said in an interview that the Hamilton County School system will continue to do everything they can to improve teacher pay.
He said, “We value teachers the same way and appreciate the work that’s happened at the state level and the continued focus on increasing educator salary.”