KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On Monday, Governor Bill Lee approached Tennessee lawmakers to give his annual State of the State Address. During that address, he $1 billion budget for education in the state. Around $125 million will be used to increase teacher pay.
The announcement was made with roaring applause in the state capitol. However, some teachers said that money is about the same they have seen in past years, and said it won't even cover the cost of the supplies they need to pay for themselves.
"We are always grateful that we're receiving something," said Michael Rogers, who has taught in Knox County for around 30 years. "But no, the raise does not equate with the amount of work that we have to put in daily. Weekly."
He said many teachers across the state work until 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. in the evening, trying to get prepared for the next day. Some researchers found that across the U.S. teachers worked around 56 hours per week during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Professional Educators of Tennessee, an advocacy group for teachers, found that Lee's most recent raise accounted for around $1,550 per teacher in the state. They said the average teacher salary is below the southeastern average on teacher salaries.
They also said that due to inflation and continued increases in insurance, careers in public education are less appealing and provide little incentive to keep teaching. They also said support staff and paraprofessionals need help too since they are critical for student success.
The Education Law Center also gave Tennessee an 'F' for its education funding in 2020, saying it spent less on education compared to its overall GDP.
"It's not a big, big, big deal," Rogers said about the raise. "It's usually about $60 to $70 more in your paycheck. But, you know, we can all use extra money."
He said he can spend more than $500 per year on supplies for his classroom.