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Tennessee teachers looking for higher pay, mentoring, training opportunities

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(The Center Square) – Tennessee teachers are looking for higher pay and benefits, more mentorship and development opportunities and more support from leadership, according to feedback from teachers across the state to the Department of Education.

The department received 1,000 responses to a November request for teachers to give feedback on a statewide listening tour. The department then pulled a representative group of 100 teachers to provide feedback in 10 cohorts. The group included representation from each CORE region, grade level, district and school type along with a range of years of experience.

“We are thankful for the over 1,000 teachers who expressed interest in participating in the listening tour and to all of the participants who took time out of their busy schedules to have very honest and transparent conversations with the department over the past several months,” Interim Department of Education Commissioner Sam Pearcy said. “We look forward to seeing how we can continue to support our educators and make Tennessee the best state to become and remain a teacher.”

The teachers said they hoped to have more interaction with state leadership regarding policy changes and also said teacher recognition can have a large impact.

The department cited a new law, set to go into effect July 1, that will incrementally raise the minimum teacher pay in the state from $40,000 to $50,000 for the 2026-27 school year by bumping the minimum to $42,000 in the fall, $44,500 the next year and continuing to rise.

A fiscal note on the bill said it would require $125 million of the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement funding formula to be restricted for the pay increase starting next fiscal year and would result in a $1.6 million increase in combined local expenses starting in financial 2026-27.

Another portion of that bill, which removes the option of automatic withdrawal of professional association dues from paychecks is being challenged in court by the Tennessee Education Association.

The TEA claimed the law violates a single-subject requirement for bills, the details weren’t included in the bill’s caption and doesn’t disclose the bill repeals the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act, the state’s negotiation law.

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