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Metro board needs to be fair with teacher pay

The Tennessee State Board of Education just passed a controversial new rule that says teachers will no longer automatically get a raise just because of seniority or they go to graduate school. Fair enough. It’s an effort to go toward a merit-based, performance-driven pay system.

But it’s now up to 137 local systems, including Metro, to decide how much weight to give teachers who try to better themselves by learning more, or who stick around despite the vast obstacles they have to navigate these days.

If the board members act reasonably and with wisdom, they will include further studies and experience as criteria for raises. Those shouldn’t be the only criteria, but it’s wrong-headed to ignore them. That’s especially true for teachers who have gotten higher degrees — or are working toward them — under the promise that they would bring higher pay.

It’s simply not fair to change the rules in the middle of a teacher’s career. At the very least, the Metro school board should grandfather in existing teachers and allow the old rules to apply. Put new rules on new teachers, not on those who were promised one thing and now have a big, fat do-over.

“Tough cookies, kiddo” is a bad message to send to teachers who have already had their fair share of angst.

“I would hate to think my two master’s (degrees) weren’t worth the paper they were printed on,” said teacher Mac McDonald. “We were encouraged to add degrees, and financial rewards were part of that encouragement. With the new evaluation system working against teachers gaining tenure, the new plan may be to keep them young and underpaid.”


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