Governor Bill Haslam on Thursday joined Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman to announce the administration’s goal of "becoming the fastest improving state in the nation when it comes to teacher salaries."
The governor said, “We’re asking our students to be the fastest improving in the nation in education achievement, and the data is showing that we’re making real progress. Teachers are the single most important factor in student achievement, and higher accountability for teachers and proven results should be met with better rewards.”
During the Haslam administration’s first years in office, the state has seen three consecutive years of growth in TCAP results, including the largest TCAP gains in Tennessee history last year, his office said.
TCAP results also show Tennessee has 91,000 more students on grade-level math and more than 50,000 more on grade-level in science.
“This is a long-term goal, and I think it is one of the most important ones we’ve taken on,” Governor Haslam added. “We are committed to investing in our educators and working in partnership with the General Assembly and our local school districts to examine where we are every year, track our progress against other states and make investment decisions that will move Tennessee forward.”
His office said, "Haslam and the General Assembly have committed more than $130 million during the past three years in new, recurring funds for teacher salaries, translating into the average Tennessee teacher earning $50,000 per year.
"The governor and legislature have also worked together to increase overall education funding by more than $400 million.
"In that time, the average teacher pay in Tennessee has improved at twice the national average, according to state and National Education Association statistics."
House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh responded, "House Democrats share Governor Haslam’s stated desire to increase teacher pay in Tennessee. Teachers in this state are overworked, underpaid and deserve to be treated as professionals.
"However, after listening to teachers across the state, we are increasingly convinced that Commissioner Huffman’s unproven, unreliable testing methods as a basis for teacher pay are hurting our public education system.
"As always with this administration, the devil will be in the details. Our teachers and students are already overburdened with standardized testing. Basing teacher pay on test scores, especially the scores of students they never teach, is going to further strain the system, lower morale and detract from the progress we have made in Tennessee.
"Democrats stand ready and willing to support the Governor’s efforts to increase pay for teachers in Tennessee. We just hope that in doing so, the Governor and Commissioner Huffman will bring teachers, school superintendents, and parents to the table to ensure that we do so in the most proven, effective way possible."