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Teacher lobbyist hopeful State of the State educator pay raises will become a reality

Posted at 7:34 PM, Feb 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-04 21:03:54-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — One of Governor Bill Lee's most ambitious and well received plans for the state in 2020 is a more than $117 million increase to the education budget meant for teacher pay increases.

However, some wondered if teachers would ever see that money. In the past, school districts used money distributed by the state for other budget items than teachers.

This year, one of the state's top lobbyists believes teachers will see the money in the their paychecks.

"That's not happened in the past," said JC Bowman, Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. "We've passed raises for teachers and it gets eaten up by districts. So, the money has not ended up in their pockets. This governor, based on my conversation with him, is intent that the money get into the pockets of the teachers."

To ensure the districts use the money correctly, the legislature passed a law to hold them accountable. It would require districts to show how they spent money from the state intended for teacher pay raises.

Tennessee has historically had difficulty holding onto teachers. Teacher pay has also ranked among the lowest in the country, with some improvement in recent years. Bowman said increasing pay is critical for retention.

"One third of the teaching force is eligible to retire in the next 10 years. We've got to pay those teachers to keep them here or they're going to leave and go elsewhere. They can find other jobs. They can find other things. So, it's paramount for the state to make sure those dollars get to teachers," he said.

The governor also announced he wants to raise teacher pay in Tennessee so that no teacher makes less than $40,000.

A final budget won't be approved by the state legislature until the Spring.