Steve Gill Commentary: Teacher’s Union Salaries Far Exceed Payments to Classroom Teachers

The State Board of Education instituted a minimum teacher’s salary of $33,745 in 2017, which essentially established a starting salary for the approximately 10 months a year that teachers work each year. Overall, Tennessee teachers receive an average annual salary of over $50,000. How does that stack up against income earners across the country? According to the National Taxpayers Union ( the starting salary for most teachers would place the near the top half of income earners. The AVERAGE teacher salary would place an individual teacher at about the top THIRD of income earners. There is no question that the best teachers deserve better compensation, but education bureaucrats and the teachers’ unions have long fought to preserve a system that essentially pays the best and the worst the same amount.

Every day, millions of teachers’ union members have money taken from their paychecks to support their union’s liberal political agenda. The TEA/NEA use teachers’ dues money to almost exclusively support the Democratic Party nationally. The activism of the TEA/NEA nationally includes endorsements of candidates like Hillary Clinton, demonizing 2nd Amendment advocates, and supporting abortion with donations to Planned Parenthood . Are Tennessee teachers’ union dues being used to promote their own beliefs and values or the beliefs and values of the liberal NEA? Are “underpaid” Tennessee teachers getting any significant benefit from the dues that they pay to their union?

In addition to the questions about HOW the Tennessee teachers dues money is being spent from a policy standpoint, there is also a question of HOW MUCH money is being spent to pay their union representatives. While Tennessee teachers are paid similarly to what is earned by their fellow Tennesseans, they are far UNDERPAID when compared to the salaries earned by their union representatives. Teachers union leaders are making themselves rich at the expense of those they claim to “represent.”

Researcher Mike Antonucci, recently released an interesting report: “Analysis: The ‘One Percent’ Leaders of America’s Top Teachers Unions, All Making More than $300,000 a Year”. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García ($317,826) and Executive Director John Stocks ($355,721) easily cleared the [1%] threshold, as did AFT President Randi Weingarten ($472,197), Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson ($359,584), and Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker ($325,314). Along with Eskelsen García and Stocks, another 18 NEA employees belong to the top 2 percent of all U.S. wage earners. An additional 104 fall into the top 5 percent. All told, NEA’s payroll for 2016 was just over $68.6 million for 555 employees — an average of $123,613 per worker. “That average worker fits into the top 8 percent of U.S. wage earners,” Antonucci noted.

In Tennessee, the AVERAGE Tennessee Education Association salary for employees is $116,000, ranging from $51,000 to $189,000, according to the website Paysa. In other words, the average Tennessee teachers’ union employee earns about DOUBLE what the average Tennessee teacher earns. Additionally, while the average Tennessee teacher’s earnings rank them in the top third of earners nationally, the average Tennessee Education Association employee ranks in the top TEN PERCENT.

In recent years Tennessee teachers have appropriately seen some gains in their earnings. But, they could add even more to their own bank accounts by eliminating the annual expense of their union dues — which are used to overpay their union representatives while promoting liberal issues that they overwhelmingly oppose. It is time for Tennessee teachers to stand up for themselves by telling their overpaid union leaders to stand aside.



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4 Thoughts to “Steve Gill Commentary: Teacher’s Union Salaries Far Exceed Payments to Classroom Teachers”

  1. Sherrie Orange

    Instead of being a part of a liberal agenda group, teachers should seriously consider and join the Professional Educators of Tennessee. They are member owned and member governed and have a liability policy that is second to none.

    1. Thank you Sherrie! We appreciate the support.

  2. M Gentile

    Unions came about because of employer treatment of workers. In an idealistic world we would not need them, but they came about because of need. My wife was a teacher and she disagreed with the political leanings of the NEA and the state association. NEA and state dues were involuntarily taken from her pay. On the other hand, she was provided legal services, a necessity in todays “sue everyone world and pass the blame principle” and she did not have to negotiate her own pay and benefits. I believe most teachers do not mind getting paid the same because most of them teach for the love of children and not to get rich. My theory is that everyone gets paid what they get and not what someone else thinks they “deserve”. The world is distorted and fairness will never exist except with God, not even in a socialist state. Russia proved this theory.

    1. Mr. Gentile, we would love to have your wife as a member, even a retired member. We are not a union, but an association. We are only focused on Tennessee. Check out our website at