NASHVILLE - State House Democrats today attacked the Haslam administration's proposed pay plan for teachers, charging that changes to the state's minimum pay salary schedule that reward experience and advanced degrees will eventually drive educators from the field.
"It reduces teacher pay," House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, told reporters at a news conference. "I don't know that we can get career teachers anymore."
Fitzhugh and other Democrats urged the State Board of Education from taking final action on Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman's proposal at its Friday meeting.
He and other critics said the plan would cut the number of steps for pay increases from 21 to four and abolish incentives for post-master's degree training as well as doctorates.
Huffman said in a statement that "it is unfortunate that some groups and elected officials are presenting inaccurate information. It is against Tennessee law for any school district to cut a teacher's pay."
The administration argues the move will give local school systems more flexibility in how they pay teachers. Critics contend that will simply encourage some local county commissions to cut education funding, boost inequality among districts and possibly encourage a new round of lawsuits on education funding.
Huffman said the state has added more than $130 million in new funding for teacher salaries over the past three years.
"We will continue to look for ways to increase teacher pay, decrease state mandates, and increase local control of school decisions," he added.
A similar plan by Haslam and Huffman to accomplish the changes legislatively melted down in 2012 amid criticisms.