Tennessee has a long way to go


Monday, Feb. 6, 2023


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The first year of state K-12 budgeting with the new TISA formula provides new challenges. The Tennessee Education Association will be working with lawmakers and administration officials to understand how the formula, and the new state dollars along with it, will impact the resources available to school systems and classrooms.   


According to TEA figures, the governor’s proposed $125 million for increased teacher salaries will translate into a 4% raise for the average Tennessee teacher and will raise the state minimum starting salary of a Tennessee teacher to $42,000 – up from $40,000 in the current school year. Tennessee has a long way to go to reach Gov. Lee’s goal of a starting salary of $50,000, but the state is well positioned to make this a reality sooner rather than later as we continue to record significant  surpluses.


To compare, Alabama’s minimum starting salary for a teacher this year is $43,358. 


“Tennessee teachers are the best in the Southeast, and we have the outcomes and data to back that up, but we are not paid as the best and are behind our peers in neighboring states,” said TEA President Tanya Coats. “Teachers, like other Tennesseans, have been affected by inflation and rising costs in the family budget. State revenues are strong, and we’ve seen record budget surpluses for many years. More can be done to improve the economics of being a professional teacher in our state, and TEA will continue to advocate for professional salaries for our dedicated educators.”  


We will be looking to see how the approximate $350 million for TISA, as outlined by the governor, is budgeted and will work to ensure it's recurring. The goal for any administration should be to get Tennessee out of the bottom 10 for education funding, and that means marked increases in recurring appropriations.  

“We have the means to improve state investment in our children and I believe Tennesseans want to see that investment made,” said Coats. “The budget process in the General Assembly will provide all of us an opportunity to see if and how TISA improves funding to help students and hard-working educators.”     


Tennessee has continually ranked near the bottom in state investment in public schools and currently ranks 43rd in funding per student.[1][1] In important national rankings, Tennessee places far higher in important education metrics: 22nd in 4th grade math, top 10 nationally for on-time graduation and top 10 in average ACT scores among states requiring all students to participate.  


“Most states rank way ahead of us in Investment, and that investment translates into outcomes. Imagine what we could do with Alabama or Kentucky level funding,” Coats said.     


[1][1] NEA 2022 Rankings of the States, Estimates of School Statistics, 2021 Public School Current Expenditures Per Student in Average Daily Attendance