Teachers may finally see a promised bump in salaries this year, Gov. Bill Haslam said during brief remarks to news organizations on Monday, hours before his scheduled State of the State address before lawmakers in Nashville.

“As I said last year – really every year – education is going to be our priority,” the governor said.

Last year, Haslam had pledged to raise teacher salaries, which currently are among the lowest in the nation, as part of his goal to be the fastest-growing state both in student achievement and teacher pay. He reneged on the promise, however, after learning that state revenues would be significantly less than expected. That backtracking, Haslam said Monday, was “the thing that hurt me most.”

Haslam focused on education throughout his first term as governor but, as he launched his second term early this year, the mood has changed.

The divide between lawmakers and advocacy groups such as the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) and Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET), who had come together in 2010 to help win $100 million of federal Race to the Top money to improve Tennessee schools, has grown since the state began implementing reforms. Those reforms include test-based teacher evaluations and the rollout of the Common Core State Standards for math and English.

With two bills filed in the legislature that would replace the Common Core, and several lawsuits filed by TEA over the teacher evaluation process, Haslam is expected to try to reestablish his education vision during his address, which begins at 6 p.m. CST.

The governor will need legislative approval both for his budget and any major policy initiatives.

Check back to our site for updates on the State of the State and the governor’s proposed budget.

Contact Grace Tatter at gtatter@chalkbeat.org.

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