Timing Not Right to Promise Teacher Pay Bump: Governor

Bill Haslam, Tennessee’s Republican governor, told reporters this week he’s not presently comfortable pledging a pay raise to teachers in 2015.

On the one hand, the governor on Wednesday said he acknowledges that “we’re asking more of them than ever.” And rewarding teachers for gains students are making is something he wants to see happen.

But, Haslam added, “It is too early to say what we will have funds to do.”

The Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, is calling on the governor and lawmakers in the GOP-dominated General Assembly to OK a six-percent across-the-board boost in pay for pubic school educators.

“Governor Haslam has said he intends to make Tennessee the fastest-improving state in the nation in terms of teacher pay,” said TEA Executive Director Carolyn Crowder in a press release. “Teachers are eagerly anticipating his budget hearing on Friday to see if he will start living up to that promise.”

The association asserts that teacher salaries haven’t kept pace with inflation since Gov. Haslam took office in 2011. Crowder alleges there’s an ongoing “povertization of the teaching profession in Tennessee.”

“When you factor in rising insurance premiums, some Tennessee teachers’ salaries are worth less now than they were when Haslam took office,” she said. “We are hopeful that the governor will rectify this situation and include a desperately needed raise in his proposed budget.”

Last year Haslam said increasing teacher compensation at a rate that leads the nation is one of his administration’s education policy priorities. However, a pay raise didn’t ultimately make it into the state government’s school spending package. “We were restricted by budget funds, what we could do,” Haslam said this week.

The governor added that as far as raises go, he’d still “like to do that” in the coming year. “But the ability to do that, and to what degree — obviously we will have to wait and see, and it’ll depend on the revenues of the state,” said Haslam.

The governor is in the midst of holding public hearings on various department budgets. He’s scheduled to hear the Department of Education’s spending proposal on Friday afternoon.