Bill Would Increase Tennessee Teacher Pay, Stop Payroll Collection of Dues

by Jon Styf


A bill to both raise the minimum Tennessee teacher salary to $50,000 by 2026-27 and eliminate the option of districts collecting Tennessee Education Association dues from paychecks passed the Senate Education Committee this week.

The bill is sponsored by State Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, but was termed an administration bill supported by Gov. Bill Lee. When asked why the two topics were combined by both a Republican and Democratic member of the committee, representatives from the Tennessee Department of Education said that was the choice of Lee.

Tennessee Education Association (TEA) Chief Lobbyist Jim Wrye spoke on the Senate Bill 281, saying he believed the minimum salary portion of the bill is key for rural school districts, where salaries tend to lag, but he felt “singling out teachers is grossly unfair” in terms of labor dues.

Wrye said police, firefighters and other state employees are allowed to deduct labor union dues from paychecks.

Sen. Bill Powers, R-Clarksville, said he believed teacher dues are between $400 and $500 annually for the 46,000 teacher who use their local districts for payroll deductions, which the state has done for 36 years.

But he said TEA donated $529,000 to candidates in the 2018 election cycle and had assets of $11.5 million with $9.2 million in revenue and $10.9 million in expenses that year. Meanwhile, state troopers pay less than $100 in dues.

“That, my friends, is a PAC,” Powers said. “And we are collecting money that these people are taking and using to endorse their candidates.”

The pay increase portion of the bill would increase the minimum teacher pay incrementally from the current $40,000 to $50,000 over the stretch by bumping the minimum to $42,000 in the fall, $44,500 the next year and so on.

Those minimums would impact the entire minimum pay scale for veteran teachers as well.

fiscal note on the bill said it would require $125 million of the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement funding formula to be restricted for the pay increase starting next fiscal year and would result in a $1.6 million increase in combined local expenses starting in financial 2026-27.

Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, was the lone no vote in committee.

“I’m not going to vote for something that’s good on one end and bad on the other,” Akbari said.

The bill will next head to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

Lee tweeted about the bill Friday morning, and its importance.

“Teaching is more than just a career – it’s a calling,” Lee wrote. “This year, I’m proposing the largest salary increase for teachers in Tennessee history, along with strong measures to ensure teacher raises actually reach their paycheck.”

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Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter at The Center Square who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.
Photo “Jack Johnson” by Senator Jack Johnson. Background Photo “Teacher and Students” by Max Fischer.


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4 Thoughts to “Bill Would Increase Tennessee Teacher Pay, Stop Payroll Collection of Dues”

  1. Phyllis West

    I can’t support this without abolishing Tenure & by placing cameras in the classroom.
    Our Police Officers job is much more difficult & yet they have body cams. That job is a “Calling” as well. And much more likely to get you killed or put in jail for doing your job.
    How can a Principal evaluate teacher performance unless he or she can monitor performance?
    There is another Bill to reject Federal Funding by Senator Cameron Sexton. This would get rid of the Teacher Union Problem all together.

  2. Joe Blow

    Its all a sham. I want to see some improvement in the classroom results before giving unperforming employees (teachers) raises. And, of course, all teachers will get pay raises because the new ones cannot be paid more than the veterans. Lee stinks.

  3. Joe Blow

    Lee, the liberal.

  4. Aries

    I’m estimating teachers work 40 weeks a year so using that as a starting point this starting salary extrapolates to a starting salary for beginning teachers annualized as $65,000. $55,000 divided by (40 weeks * 8 hrs) 1250 hours = $31.25/hour. Actual work hours in a year = 2080 * $31.25 = $65,000. Not a bad salary to start out. That along with all the government benefits and job protections for public school teachers.