MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Education was a key focus of Governor Bill Lee’s State of the State address. Lee laid out a plan with “record-setting” teacher salary increases and expansions for mental health programs.
Though some educators remain cautiously optimistic, knowing the promised money isn’t necessarily guaranteed to go to their paychecks.
“This year I am proposing the largest investment in K-12 teacher salaries in Tennessee history,” Gov. Lee said Monday night.
His plan met with a standing ovation by lawmakers. A record-setting $117 million investment in teacher salary increases that will eventually bring the statewide base salary to $40,000, equal to a 4 percent increase.
But Keith Williams, Executive Director of the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association, wants assurances put in place that Shelby County Schools will use the money for teacher raises as promised by the governor.
“Hopefully the district will not take those funds and increase the employment opportunity in this district, increase the rungs of the organization, these zones. That kind of thing. That eats up funding,” said Williams.
While the state’s Basic Education Program provides a formula on how public schools must spend state money, according to Williams the BEP does not require districts to pass those funds on to teacher salaries.
“He’s made some lofty promises and we applaud him for that but I am very hopeful that this district will do the right thing by children and the students and pass on those monies to the areas that will benefit children,” he said.
Williams says currently Shelby County teachers are already above the proposed base pay. Their salaries range from $43,000 to $73,000.
The question now: when or if that proposed raise will come.
Shelby County Schools did not respond to us when we asked for comment on the governor’s proposal for teacher salary boosts nor with a comment on whether the money previously promised to teacher pay raises was spent elsewhere in the district.