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Haslam to propose another teacher pay increase in Tennessee

Gov. Bill Haslam gives brief remarks to reporters on Monday in advance of his annual State of the State address.
Gov. Bill Haslam gives brief remarks to reporters on Monday in advance of his annual State of the State address.
Marta W. Aldrich

Gov. Bill Haslam wants to increase teacher pay for a third straight year as he seeks to make good on his administration’s pledge to make teacher pay a priority.

Haslam told reporters Monday that he’ll ask the legislature for an extra $200 million for K-12 education, about a fourth of which is expected to go toward teacher pay. Details will be revealed Monday evening in his annual State of the State address and during budget hearings with lawmakers this week.

If his proposed budget is approved, the governor said, K-12 education spending will have increased by $1.5 billion during his eight years in office, including $500 million for teacher pay. The state already has boosted its teacher pay allocation by about $450 million in recent years.

But Tennessee still lags in teacher pay, and the amount of extra funding that actually reaches teachers’ paychecks varies considerably statewide. That’s because local districts have discretion on how to spend the money if they already pay the state’s average weighted salary.

Haslam’s final spending plan comes as three of Tennessee’s four largest school districts are suing the state for more funding.

The outgoing Republican governor is expected to use his televised address to highlight the successes of his administration and, in an election year, to urge his eventual successor to stay the course. As he frequently does, he touted that Tennessee is the nation’s fastest-improving state in math, science and English based on the Nation’s Report Card and also has a record-high graduation rate.

“The message is that we can’t stop now,” he said. “We have made great progress, but the exact wrong thing we could do would be to change the direction that we’ve made in jobs, in education, and in running a very effective government.”

You can watch the governor’s address here beginning at 6 p.m. CT.

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