Wilson County Schools and Lebanon Special School District teachers are being paid more than the minimum average salary of educators statewide.
According to John Dunn with the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, the state minimum salary for a first-year teacher with no experience is $38,000. That amount is set by the State Board of Education, according to Dunn.
First-year WCS teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no experience are paid a minimum of $41,400. With additional degrees, they earn $44,100 per year.
In WCS, during this fiscal year, the pay increases for number of years of service, with those with 20 years of service making $50,400 with a bachelor’s degree. With additional degrees, their salary can reach up to $53,900 per year.
LSSD teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no experience are paid a minimum of $47,094. With additional degrees, they can earn up to $54,889 per year. Teachers with 20 years of service with a bachelor’s degree are paid a minimum of $64,338. With additional degrees, they can earn up to $76,877 per year.
LSSD Director Scott Benson said that during the 2020-21 fiscal year, the LSSD starting salary for beginning teachers with no experience was second highest in the state.
The LSSD budget was increased this year to include a 2% raise for LSSD teachers. Instead of a raise by percentage during this fiscal year, each WCS employee, certified and classified, received a $1,000 bonus.
“Even though we rank very high in the state (as far as teacher wages are concerned), we don’t pay (the teachers) enough,” Benson said.
The Tennessee Department of Education’s budget was increased by $219 million in this year’s budget, which included $120 million for teacher raises. That allowed teachers with no experience a starting salary of $38,000 a year. With an advanced degree, the minimum starting salary is $41,605.
In additional to the number of years of educational experience and degrees reflecting in their salary, teachers in WCS are additionally paid based on their level of effectiveness (LOE). That is a statewide policy that requires licensed teachers to be evaluated by observation of their teaching, individual student growth and student achievement.
WCS spokesman Bart Barker and Benson said the teachers are ranked 1 thorough 5, based on their LOE. They said each of their districts have very few teachers whose rankings are 1 or 2.
“We have very effective teachers,” Benson said. “They are ranked due to their effectiveness, but that is in no way relative to our pay scale.”
During the last fiscal year, both districts gave their teachers a substantial raise based on their years of service. The salaries for those with no experience up to those with five years of service increased by $1,000. That went up to those with 20 or more years’ experience making $5,000 more.
That was due to an increase in the local sales tax that had to go to each district for teacher salaries. In the 2020-21 fiscal year, WCS received $25.7 million and LSSD received $6.6 million for the raises.
By law, 15.8% of sales tax revenue was required to go to LSSD and had to be used for teacher raises.
“We’d been trying to give our teachers a substantial raise for years, but we couldn’t do it and balance the budget,” Benson said. “As a result of the (sales tax increase), we socked every part of the money we raised to teacher salaries. We gave a significant raise to all of the teaching staff.”