TN teachers say proposed plan amounts to a pay freeze - WSMV News 4

TN teachers say proposed plan amounts to a pay freeze

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There's a battle brewing between Tennessee's teachers and the state department of education over a plan the teachers believe will cost them thousands of dollars over the course of their careers.

The state plans to change the way it pays teachers, and while some say it will help reward the best teachers, others say it's a pay freeze.

"Over the term of their career, it could mean thousands of dollars," said Mitchell Johnson, with the Tennessee Education Association. "Our concern is that it diminishes the earning power of teachers over the long term of their career."

The plan at issue makes changes to the minimum pay schedule, which dictates the minimum amount a school district must pay a teacher.

The more years of experience the teacher has, the more money the teacher is paid.

And, for now, if a teacher has a master's degree or a Ph.D., they also earn more. But that, too, could change.

"The point of both of the changes is really about allowing the districts to more discretion in how they use salary dollars for teachers," said Sara Heyburn, with the Tennessee Department of Education.

State leaders say the point is to be able to allow districts to reward high-performing teachers and recruit the best and the brightest. And they stress that no teacher will see a pay cut.

"No teacher will be making less than they are currently making. They can only make more money, so anything that suggests otherwise is not true," Heyburn said.

However, teachers say it's now moving to a system of pay-for-performance, which they believe isn't fair and doesn't work.

"What they are trying to do is tie teacher pay increases to student test scores. We think that it is fundamentally wrong," Johnson said.

Democratic leaders in the Tennessee legislature gathered Thursday to express their distaste for the cuts.

"I'm just amazed at the lack of respect that this administration has for people that spend probably more time with our children than we do in a lot of instances," said State Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville.

This new pay plan is up for approval at the state Board of Education meeting on Friday. It's expected there will be a lot of teachers on hand to make their voices heard.

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