Report: More money doesn't mean raises for TN teachers

When Gov. Bill Haslam announced in early spring $105 million in new money for teacher salaries, the statement didn't necessarily mean a raise for teachers across the state, according to a new Tennessee Comptroller report.

Instead, raises are dependent on the local governments' decisions on how to spend that money on positions, the Tennessee Comtroller of the Registry report says. The brief adds clarity for teachers who have complained they never saw a raise after the money was announced by the state.

"The BEP formula calculates the number of instructional positions, such as teachers and principals, for each school district and funds all the calculated positions at one set dollar amount, which was raised this year to $44,430," the report says.

The report adds that many districts across the state choose to spend more money on other positions than what is allocated in the Basic Education program formula, BEP, as it is commonly called, is the estimated cost to educate on student in the state and might include teacher pay, textbooks and resources.

"When districts receive larger BEP allocations in the instructional category, they determine to what extent this additional funding is spent on increasing pay for staff already employed, on compensation for new staff, or a combination of the two," the report says.

The report, however, doesn't go into whether the state is providing enough money for the formula and employee positions, something that has been disputed by Metro Nashville Public Schools.

The state is also being sued by other large-sized districts, including Shelby and Hamilton counties, for more education funds.

The Nashville petition, however, was denied by a judge after the Nashville school board asked the courts to command the state to fully fund BEP. The judge denied the petition because she said there was no mandate to enforce and the board will need to vote on next steps, likely at its next board meeting.

"Such law must first be adjudicated before the writ can issue," said Chancery Court Judge Ellen Hobbs Lyle said.

The Metro Nashville Schools Board voted to file the petition in September after the members said they received less money than expected this school year for its English Language Learners program based on the BEP formula.

In a June letter to the state, Metro officials said Nashville expected under the state's BEP formula for the state to provide enough money to fund a ratio of one teacher and one translator for every 20 and 200 ELL students, respectively.

The Tennessee Department of Education responded by saying it allocated enough money for districts to be funded at a ratio of 1-to-25 and 1-to-250 and that the formula is a goal. It added the money provided for its student-teacher ratio had improved.


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