For Nashville parents, their children’s education is high on the priority list, and yet, the "It City" is known for having some of the lowest performing schools in the state, with a major teacher shortage.
So how did we get here?
“My students, they’re the reason I come every day,” said Metro teacher Lee Vail as camera crews shot a recruitment video in her 4th grade classroom. The video was needed because the troubling truth is there aren't enough “Miss Vails” to go around.
There are about 150 teacher openings in Metro and attrition is at an all time high. Teachers are leaving to work in other districts. In some cases they’re getting out of the profession all together.
And to understand why, you have to do some basic math. The starting salary for Metro teachers is $44,000. The maximum pay, after decades of service is $60,000.
Meanwhile, the average cost of a home in Nashville is $326,000.
“In my opinion its unconscionably low teacher pay in our district,” said Katie Cour, the president of the Nashville Public Education Foundation.
Also, 10 years ago the city changed the pay structure. “Most professionals have an increase in their salary from year to year. We don’t have that."
Teachers said that was the wrong answer. “It’s making it almost impossible for young teachers or teachers across the scale at all to live in which the communities they serve,” said Cour.
So will better pay equal better education for kids? “No. The answer is simply no it will not fix the problem,” said Cour. Cour said, Metro has a major morale problem too.
She said teachers don’t have enough growth opportunities and many feel over-worked, under-valued and micro-managed. “We need to be building the types of cultures where teachers want to come to work every single day,” said Cour.
Teachers like Miss Vail who are shaping Nashville's next generation.
“The future of the world is in my classroom today, and with Nashville being the "It City," we should be the "It City" that is able to provide, not just stadiums and soccer fields, but I think we’ve really, really, really got to hone in on, if we’re able to pay for those things, we also have to, first and foremost, be able to pay and fund our public education system,” said Vail.
Mayor John Cooper and the Nashville Public Education Foundation are now conducting a study. They’ll be looking at teacher pay, performance and attrition. Then they’ll make recommendations based on what they find.
Saturday, the district is holding a teacher recruitment fair at Lipscomb Allen Arena from 8 a.m. until noon. You can register online, here.