TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Tennessee General Assembly voted to raise teachers’ base salary pay to $50,000 by 2026.

Currently, the base pay is nearly $40,000, according to The National Education Association (NEA). They ranked Tennessee 33rd in the nation for teacher starting salaries. The increase would put Tennessee in the top 10 in the country.

Kingsport City School leaders are grateful to see teachers being appreciated for their work.

“The work that is done in our classroom certainly is valuable work that is valuable to our students, our community,” said Andy True, Kingsport City Schools Assistant Superintendent. “And, so to be able to appropriately acknowledge that to have additional pay for educators is always a plus.”

Johnson City School Leaders also believe this move is needed, as they said educators have been underpaid for a long time.

“I think Tennessee has lagged behind and it’s time we caught up with the rest of the country,” said Kathy Hall, Chair of the Johnson City Board of Education. “In Johnson City, we’ve always had the thought that the best, best-paid teachers will be happier. They’ll stay longer. And so that’s always been a strategy of ours to be in the top ten systems in the state.”

The funding for salary increases will come both from state and local sources.

“It is not completely funded by the state, it’s important to know that there’s a local match whenever we talk about salary increases,” said Hall.

Funding will differ across districts depending on the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) public school funding formula.

“What we’re doing right now is taking that information of what we understand the funding will be, putting that kind of into that mix of all of those budget considerations to determine exactly how much we’re going to be able to provide for our educators as we move into next year,” said True.

Both True and Hall believe this salary increase will help with teacher retention and recruitment.

“Whenever we can stay competitive, whenever we can provide a compensation package that reflects our desire to have the best educators, that’s helpful for us as an organization,” said True.
“It’s certainly helpful to our families, to be able to have the best staff available. And so to be able to have competitive salaries, this is something we’ve looked at extensively over the last few years when it comes to our salary structure and what we’re able to offer.”

“We try to do our very best here, but I think to make teachers happy it’s important to be paid well for it,” said Hall. “We all enjoy that. And so I think that this will help with teacher retention, which is something that some systems have struggled with across the state.”

The bill would also stop allowing teachers who are in unions to have their dues taken out of their paychecks.

The bill will go into effect on July 1st, 2023 if signed by Governor Bill Lee.