Teacher Pay

Hopson: All teachers to receive 3 percent raise, not just top-rated ones

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Superintendent Dorsey Hopson greets a third-grade teacher on the first day of school at Bruce Elementary School in Memphis.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said Thursday that all teachers in Shelby County Schools will receive a 3 percent raise this school year instead of just those who receive top ratings on their evaluations.

He cited delays by the State Department of Education in providing student test scores that help determine which teachers score a 3 or higher on a scale of 1 to 5 on their evaluations. The school system’s budget initially earmarked the raises only for top-tier teachers.

Hopson told the district’s educators in an email Thursday that they’ll see the raise reflected in their Nov. 18 paychecks. The pay hikes will be retroactive and will also go to librarians, counselors, instructional facilitators, coaches, social workers, physical/speech therapists and psychologists.

The decision came after Hopson learned that the district won’t receive the state’s testing data until December. Last month, he had told teachers the district should receive the data in time to hand out the raises beginning in November.

“You are all deserving of our gratitude for demonstrating your commitment to our students and patience throughout this frustrating process,” Hopson wrote.

This is the second significant increase for Shelby County teachers since the 2013 merger of Memphis City Schools and legacy Shelby County Schools. The district awarded raises in 2015 based on seniority, while this year’s raise would have been the first awarded based on performance.

Representatives of teachers unions were thrilled with the news.

“In the future, I hope Superintendent Hopson will continue to distribute salary increases fairly, instead of basing raises on flawed test scores that do not measure our teachers’ true contribution to Shelby County students,” said Karla Carpenter, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Education Association.

Shelby County’s raise is being funded with additional state money earmarked for teacher raises. Gov. Bill Haslam and the legislature allocated money in this year’s state budget for 4 percent raises for K-12 teachers. However, not all Tennessee educators will see that increase because of a provision that gives spending leeway to districts that already match or better the state’s weighted average salary of $43,216. Shelby County Schools has the highest average weighted salaries in the state at $54,187. (Read Chalkbeat’s explainer on why the disbursement of Tennessee’s two-year investment in teacher raises can vary from district to district.)

Looming threat

Report: Looming financial threats could undermine ‘fresh’ start for new Detroit district

The creation of a new school district last year gave Detroit schools a break from years of crippling debt, allowing the new district to report a healthy budget surplus going into its second year.

It’s the first time since 2007 that the city’s main school district has ended the year with a surplus.

But a report released this morning — just days after Superintendent Nikolai Vitti took over the district — warns of looming financial challenges that “could derail the ‘fresh’ financial start that state policymakers crafted for the school district.”

The report, from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, notes that almost a third of the district’s $64 million surplus is the cost savings from more than 200 vacant teaching positions.

Those vacancies have caused serious problems in schools including classrooms crammed with 40 or 50 kids. The district says it’s been trying to fill those positions. But as it struggles to recruit teachers, it is also saving money by not having to pay them.

Other problems highlighted in the report include the district’s need to use its buildings more efficiently at a time when many schools are more than half empty. “While a business case might be made to close an under-utilized building in one part of the city, such a closure can create challenges and new costs for the districts and the families involved,” the report states. It notes that past school closings have driven students out of the district and forced kids to travel long distances to school.

The report also warns that if academics don’t improve soon, student enrollment — and state dollars tied to enrollment — could continue to fall.

Read the full report here:

 

Teacher Pay

Every Tennessee teacher will make at least $33,745 under new salary schedule

PHOTO: Patrick Wall

Some teachers in 46 Tennessee districts will see a pay boost next year after the State Board of Education voted Wednesday to raise the minimum salary for educators across the state.

The unanimous vote raises the minimum pay from $32,445 to $33,745, or an increase of 4 percent. The minimum salary is the lowest that a district can pay its teachers, and usually applies to new educators.

The boost under the new schedule won’t affect most Tennessee districts, including the largest ones in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga — where teacher salaries already exceed the state minimum. (You can see the list of districts impacted here.)

The state’s largest teachers union lauded the increase, which will be funded under the state’s 2017-18 budget under Gov. Bill Haslam.

“Teachers statewide are increasingly struggling to support their own families on the stagnant wages of a public school teacher,” said Barbara Gray, president of the Tennessee Education Association. “It is unacceptable for teachers to have to choose between the profession they love and their ability to keep the lights on at home or send their own children to college.”

Tennessee is one of 17 states that use salary schedules to dictate minimum teacher pay, according to a 2016 analysis by the Education Commission of the States. In that analysis, Tennessee ranked 10th out of 17 on starting pay.

The 4 percent raise is a step toward addressing a nationwide issue: the widening gap in teacher wages. On average, teachers earn just 77 percent of what other college graduates earn, according to a 2016 study from the Economic Policy Institute. Tennessee ranks 40th in that study, with its teachers earning 70 percent in comparison to other graduates.

View the Economic Policy Institute’s data in full: