Metro Nashville teachers push for more pay

Metro School District has the highest-paid teachers in the state, averaging around $70k per year.
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 10:24 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2023 at 6:51 AM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Metro Nashville teachers are pushing for more pay - especially for the employees who have been there the longest.

Several teachers spoke out about their concerns during the Tuesday evening board meeting.

Pay has been impacting teachers so much that they’re having to work outside of school hours just to make ends meet.

“Anything extra outside of NES and Comcast and rent. I needed a little extra,” said Charlene Culbertson, a pre-K teacher at Shwab Elementary.

Culbertson works as a barista at Starbucks when she’s not teaching little ones in the classroom. She said she always knew going into education she would need to pick up extra pay because of the teaching salary.

“I’ll get up early in the morning and then work a few hours, and then go to school and teach the small ones,” said Culbertson.

During Tuesday night’s metro school board meeting, teachers expressed the need for longevity pay--some who’ve been doing the job for more than three decades say they haven’t received adequate raises for their tenure.

“My longer-serving colleagues were left with minimal raises and had understandable resentment over the inequity. Meanwhile, administrators receive longevity pay as an incentive while teachers do not,” said Mary Joe, during the public comment period of the meeting.

Metro School District has the highest-paid teachers in the state, averaging around $70k per year.

The teachers, some affiliated with MNEA, say they are asking the district to provide regular pay increases and address the staffing shortage--which they say is why the district can’t retain staff.

“Our college-educated friends at other jobs make substantially more money. Obviously, teachers are here because we love children but that is not an excuse to make them live from paycheck to paycheck in America’s ‘it’ city,” said Dr. Beverly Whilan.

In what some may call the “it” city, one educator explains how some teachers are experiencing homelessness.

“I hate to bring this up, but the truth of the matter is we have homeless teachers in our ranks. How effective or efficient can a homeless teacher be?” said Laura Leonard, an education specialist for MNPS.

Metro school district says the board has approved nearly $67 million over the last two years to go toward teacher pay. Currently, Metro School District has on average the highest-paid teachers in the state averaging around $70,000 a year. Substitute teachers say they haven’t received a pay increase in a decade.

“We need to increase the daily sub pay rate so that we can bring more subs into the building,” said Dr. Nancy Holland during the meeting.

A Metro School District spokesperson said regarding the traditional substitute role, the district offers pay bonuses for substitutes working a full week in an effort to provide more consistent staffing to schools:

  • 60 credit hours, non-degreed - $18.36
  • Degreed - $18.58
  • Licensed - $19.03

Culbertson says there’s no doubt there’s a direct correlation between teachers’ satisfaction and students’ success.

“Listen to us because we care so much, and it breaks our hearts to have to walk away to take care of our needs knowing that there are children that will not have their needs met because we couldn’t meet our own needs,” said Culbertson.

The school district also told me they’re planning to present a draft budget to the board at the end of March. They’re also planning to hold community meetings focusing on future investments for the next school year.