SCS teachers speak out over pay changes

SCS teachers expected to speak out over pay changes

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Teacher pay at Shelby County Schools was a hot topic at Tuesday night's school board meeting. Concerned SCS teachers spoke out over a merit-based pay system proposed by school officials.

The district says the new system will reward the best teachers instead of only giving pay increases to teachers who have seniority.

Fellow teachers booed third grade teacher Becky Taylor for supporting teacher salaries based on how well their students do according to the Teacher Effectiveness Management, or TEM, rubric. The booing got so loud, it drowned her out.

The highest performing teachers will get a $1,200 raise per year. The next level will get $1,000 per year and Level 3 will get an increase of $800 per year. Those teachers performing on Levels 1 and 2 will not get a raise.

"By implementing a performance-based pay system, we are able to reward the accomplishments of those who have proven classroom effectiveness," said Trinette Small, SCS.

The change, according to administrators, will reward teachers whose students are making improvements and is based mostly on merit. That means a teacher who performs at the top of the scale will get the same raise as a 10-year veteran who performs similarly. The best teachers have a chance to earn as much as $73,000 per year. The maximum salary was increased by SCS on Monday.

Many teachers are protesting, though, because they say the plan reduces their lifetime earnings and retirement. Teachers say they would have to work 15 to 20 years without a raise.

Some teachers also say TEM is subjective because all kids don't learn the same way. They added that a teacher can't be responsible if a child has learning challenges beyond their control.

"We believe that to use that as the total measure of a teacher is wrong," said Keith Williams, Memphis and Shelby County Education Association.

The district says the goal is to bring all school employees under a similar plan.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said there's a lot of false information floating around.

"What bothers me more than anything else in this discussion is that there almost seems to be an intentional effort to distort the facts," said Hopson.

Hopson says there's no secret plan to pay teachers less and dispelled another rumor that only 10 percent of teachers would be eligible for raises.

"Eighty percent of our teachers are level four and fives," said Hopson. "That's just the facts."

The school system said over 25 years, a teacher with a consistent TEM 4 and 5 ratings can earn $38,000 more than current teachers.

"The reality is that in this era of accountability, student testing matters," added Hopson.

Hopson says the schools must make bold decisions when two-thirds of third graders cannot read.

The plan is just a plan until the board approves by funding it through the budget.

Without board approval in the budget, there is no additional $8 million compensation package.

The board can also pick an alternative plan either through resolution or through the budget process.

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