Teacher salary plan sparks ouster call

photo Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman


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NASHVILLE - A decision by the state Board of Education to change how teachers are paid has led to a social media push to remove Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.

The Tennessean reports the creation of two Facebook pages calling for Huffman's ouster as well as a Change.org petition that has hundreds of signatures.

Huffman's ouster would be unlikely, as Gov. Bill Haslam, state education board chairman Fielding Rolston and outside education advocates came to his defense. Rolston noted it was the board's decision, not Huffman's.

The board approved the changes last month after supporters and opponents argued for two hours over the matter. The measure changes the minimum teacher salary schedule, reduces steps in salary increases from 21 to four and eliminates incentives for doctorate degrees and post-master's training.

"I think we've made it abundantly clear we asked him to do this," Rolston said.

Haslam released a statement in support of Huffman.

"Kevin has brought an innovative approach to improving education in Tennessee, and we're seeing results. When you tackle significant change, it isn't usually easy, but our state has lagged behind in education for far too long. We have to do better than the status quo for our children and our state."

Huffman also garnered support from education reform advocates outside Tennessee.

"Tennessee has one of the fastest-improving state education systems in the nation, and it's in great part due to the policies that Commissioner Huffman has championed," said Lydia Logan, managing director of Chiefs for Change, a group of education leaders and reform advocates from different states.

The change has raised concerns among many, including state House Democratic Leader Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, who wrote a critical opinion piece about it.

"We have made many reforms and changes in education," Fitzhugh said. "We expect teachers to implement those reforms, and here we are attacking them. It's time to stop that and reflect on what they have meant to us."

For his part, Huffman said in a statement that his focus is on making sure "that Tennessee is the fastest-improving state in the nation."