House Republicans Back Historic Increase in Teacher Pay; Legislation to Reward Hard Work And Dedication Of Tennessee Teachers
Last week, Governor Bill Haslam delivered his annual State of the State Address to a joint convention of the legislature, unveiling his budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year with major proposed investments in both K-12 and higher education.
Since Republicans became the majority party in 2011, the state’s education system has experienced dramatic improvements — student test scores now lead the nation in growth, Tennessee has the fastest growing graduation rate of any state, students have experienced consistent gains on TCAP every year, and the ACT statewide average has increased to 19.4.
Along with $261 million in new spending proposed for K-12 investments — including $104.6 million for increasing teacher pay — additional bills include allowing every full-time certified public school teacher in Tennessee to receive a 25 percent discount on tuition to any state-operated institution of higher education, and legislation awarding teachers across the state with a $5,000 bonus if they receive performance evaluations reflecting “above expectations” or “significantly above expectations” in at least four years during any five year period.
Major investments to aid the Drive to 55 initiative, the state’s effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential to 55 percent by 2025. These investments include $50 million for the Complete College funding formula for higher education, $20 million for the Drive to 55 Capacity Fund to help community and technical colleges meet the growing demand for degrees and certificates, and $10 million for the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) helping communities align degree and course offerings with the needs of the local workforce.
The 2016-2017 budget also invests $581.6 million to build new buildings and fix existing higher education facilities. This includes the top recommended capital projects for both the University of Tennessee (UT) system and the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR):
- $85.5 million for a new Tennessee Tech University laboratory science building;
- $39 million for a new dentistry building at the UT Health Science Center in Memphis;
- $38.8 million for Tennessee State University’s new health science building; and
- $36 million for renovations to UT-Chattanooga academic buildings.