How Memphis’ investment in teacher salary schedules will increase paychecks

A woman stands at the front of a classroom with a few students in the foreground of the frame.
Memphis-Shelby County Schools is putting millions more toward salaries and bonuses, which officials hope will encourage teacher retention and entice new teachers to fill hard-to-staff roles. (Andrea Morales / for Chalkbeat)

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Memphis-Shelby County Schools teachers will get salary raises and be able to move up the district’s salary schedule faster under an agreement with the two teachers unions.

The new schedule is one part of $78 million in new funds the district is putting toward salaries and bonuses, which officials hope will encourage teacher retention and entice new teachers to fill hard-to-staff roles.

Teacher raises will vary wildly for the upcoming school year as MSCS implements the new scale, offering some teachers thousands in salary increases. But teachers who have worked in Memphis schools the longest will benefit least.

In Memphis, as in other places, teacher pay is generally determined by years of experience and by post-secondary degrees. A salary schedule combines these factors in a table that shows educators how much they will make. 

The district’s previous schedule charted a 30-year path from a teacher’s first year to their maximum salary. The new schedule shrinks that time to 18 years, with a similar range — about $22,000 — between minimum and maximum pay on the scale. 

With fewer steps, “teachers will see their salaries grow faster” on the new scale, the district said. 

For some of the teachers who negotiated the schedule, the end result has been lacking. A political bargaining process yielded a schedule that Memphis’ two teacher unions didn’t agree upon — particularly when it came to pay for older teachers. Plus, both unions sought higher salaries than MSCS officials said the district could sustainably afford. 

MSCS administrators and the school board have said they will seek funding sources to reach a $50,000 minimum salary for educators.  

What Memphis teachers will make for the 2023-24 school year

Teachers who are on 10-month contracts and do not teach in iZone schools can use the calculator below to determine their salaries under the new schedule. 

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Input your salary before deductions, rounded to the nearest dollar. Don’t include bonus pay or pay you made for extra teaching assignments, such as summer school. 

(Story continues after calculator.) 

District offers bonuses to stymie teacher vacancies

The $78 million for the pay increases came from reallocations, plus new education dollars from the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement funding formula, called TISA, which takes effect this school year. 

Sustainability concerns prevented the district from putting more than $27.3 million in new funds into the salary schedule, said Tito Langston, the district’s chief financial officer. On average, teachers will see a 5% raise with its implementation, said interim Superintendent Toni Williams.

The other $50 million is funding bonuses for existing and new teachers, plus some general pay raises. 

Negotiations with teacher unions yielded new pay scale

Both teacher unions — Memphis Shelby County Education Association and the United Education Association of Shelby County — bargained for the salary schedule as part of contract negotiations in January and February. The process was atypical for Tennessee, but offered by the district as a compromise

The two unions and district officials breezed through new agreements on bereavement pay, the grievance process, and health care. Salary negotiations took weeks.

With 18 steps, the new scale is more similar to surrounding school districts and previous Memphis pay scales than the 30-step scale that then-Superintendent Joris Ray implemented in 2021. That scale brought standardization to teacher pay that had drifted in the absence of an active scale. 

Teacher raises this year will vary, as educators are slotted into the 18-step scale. Once on the scale, salaries are more predictable. The scale could change again next year, however, after more bargaining in January between the district and the teachers unions.

Laura Testino covers Memphis-Shelby County Schools for Chalkbeat Tennessee. Reach Laura at LTestino@chalkbeat.org.

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