Teacher pay bump passes as Tennessee lawmakers wrap up special session on education

Tennessee educators could get a small pay increase for the rest of the school year, even as state lawmakers who voted Friday for the boost acknowledged that many teachers won’t notice a difference in their paychecks.

Concurring with a Senate vote on Thursday, the House unanimously approved $42 million more toward instructional salaries from Jan. 1 through June 30, including $12 million to cover what local governments would normally have to match.

The pay hike equates to a 2% funding increase toward the salaries of teachers and other certified educators like school administrators, counselors, librarians, and social workers.

The move wrapped up the legislature’s four-day special session on education, called by Gov. Bill Lee to address learning disruptions for students during the coronavirus pandemic, plus perennial challenges with teacher pay and literacy. On Thursday, lawmakers voted to strengthen Tennessee’s third-grade retention requirements; create new summer and after-school learning programs; require schools to provide phonics-based reading instruction; and hold teachers, schools, and districts harmless from the results of state tests scheduled for this spring.

“What was accomplished here is remarkable,” the Republican governor said after the GOP-controlled legislature completed its work. The changes, he said, will make Tennessee the nation’s “most aggressive state” to get students back on track.

But Democrats criticized the “rush” to enact sweeping policy changes that will affect students and schools for years. They singled out the governor’s plan to require schools to hold back third graders beginning in 2022-23 if they aren’t considered proficient at reading and don’t take advantage of new programs to improve.

“It is absolutely reckless to change our retention policy in a four-day special session,” said Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro of Nashville. “It’s not something the legislature should rubber stamp without hearing from our educators and the people who are going to be affected.”

This article was originally published on Teacher pay bump passes as Tennessee lawmakers wrap up special session on education

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