NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — The ongoing teacher shortage in Tennessee is prompting outcry from parents and students alike.
A recent survey from the Professional Educators of Tennessee reveals one of the top reasons teachers are leaving is low pay.
“Clearly we are losing a large percentage of teachers across the state, it’s as if we have fallen on deaf ears and people don’t understand the urgent need,” Professional Educators of TN Executive Director J.C. Bowman said.
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Tennessee’s prisons are also struggling to recruit and retain correctional officers. Gov. Bill Lee just announced an increase in salary for state correctional officers to help with the issue.
Entry-level correctional officers will now earn $44,500 per year, about $6,000 more than a teacher’s base salary of $38,000.
Under current state law, it would take an educator with a bachelor’s degree ten years of teaching to reach that new starting salary for correctional officers.
Advocates are now urging the governor to make similar steps for Tennessee’s teachers.
“We think corrections workers are important and we think they should certainly get paid, but we’d like to see the governor make a similar investment in educators and help teachers get into the field,” Bowman said.
Bowman says teachers often work outside of their contracted hours, and a raise could help teachers be more fairly compensated for the many hours they put in each week.
“Work for correctional officers in normal situations, they work an eight-hour shift and they get to go home, whereas for a teacher there is no such thing as an eight-hour shift,” Bowman said.
FOX 17 News reached out to the governor’s office asking if he will consider a raise to match or exceed the state’s correctional officer salary.
A spokesperson with the governor’s office says “salaries and benefits for teachers is certainly part of the discussion,” as state leaders take a deep dive into the education funding formula.
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