The State of Tennessee is Underfunding Public Education by $500 Million to $900 Million. The bottom line here is that we need to fully fund public education to see what it can really do for our children.
I support increased salary funding for Pre-K-12 public education teachers, support professionals, and higher education contingent faculty.
The National Education Association advocates for starting salaries of $40,000 for teachers in grades Pre-K through 12th. Currently the starting salary for KCS teachers is $38,295 (2). The average starting teacher salary statewide is $36,000. “20% of new public education teachers leave the profession by the end of the first year, and almost half leave within 5 years (5).” Several school districts and schools have implemented new teacher mentoring programs to help teachers in their first years of teaching. However, those programs cannot help new teachers pay their household bills and student loan repayments. For many teachers, the financial incentives of working elsewhere to pay bills outweigh their desire to teach. As your House Representative, I will work to raise the starting salary of teachers to $40,000 so we can help new teachers bridge the gap between student and young professional.
Education Support Professionals
The National Education Association advocates for minimum salaries of $28,000 for Educational Support Professionals (ESP). Educational Support Professionals include custodial, security, food services, health services, clerical, technical, transportation, paraeducational, and skilled trades. The national average salary for ESP’s is $30,819. In Knox County Schools, the starting hourly rate for custodians and food service employees is $8/hr. Salaries for school secretaries start at $18,000 and educational assistants start at $16,395. These rates are significantly below the national average of $30,000 and well below even the NEA’s target starting salary of $28,000. ESP’s keep schools running “and keep students safe and healthy. As committed and caring members of a school community, they impact the lives of students every day (5).” Many ESP’s are woefully underpaid and have to work multiple jobs just to support themselves and their families. As your House Representative, I will work to raise the minimum salary of Education Support Professionals in Tennessee to $28,000 so that these professionals can earn a living wage along with their colleagues and peers.
Higher Education Faculty
We have seen higher education tuition prices rise significantly over the years. However, while tuition prices have been increasing, faculty salaries have been decreasing over the years. Tenured faculty on average make $10,563 per class while non-tenured, contingent faculty make $2,836 per class (5). Contingent faculty (part-time, full-time temporary, non-tenured) “teach the lion’s share of courses, are paid significantly less than tenured faculty, and they have few rights and benefits (5).” As your House Representative, I will work with our wonderful colleges and universities to ensure that all contingent faculty members are receiving a living wage.
I support increased funding for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiatives in public schools.
The U.S. Dept. of Education has predicted major job increases of 15% to 62% in the STEM field between 2010 and 2020. Many of today’s students will need to be prepared to work in the STEM field upon graduation. “All young people should be prepared to think deeply and to think well so that they have the chance to become innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our nation and our world, both today and tomorrow (6).”
Our public school students need the opportunity to “Build 21st Century Skills in a 21st Century Classroom (6).” Classrooms in KCS are ill-equipped to meet those needs. The technology that is available is outdated and there are simply not enough laptops and tablets to accommodate every student. As your House Representative, I will work to increase funding to upgrade the technology in our public schools and to have every public school in Tennessee have a one to one technology ratio.
In order to prepare our 21st Century students in our public schools for 21st Century jobs, we should increase science education funding and resources. As your House Representative, I will work to promote and fund more science education initiatives in our public schools. Every school and teacher should have the science resources that they need to build a lifelong appreciation of science for all of their students.
Knox County Schools are surrounded by dynamic and innovative research centers and schools such as The University of Tennessee, Pellissippi State Community College, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, and Y-12. But yet our public schools are not considered to be dynamic and innovative centers for STEM excellence. As your House Representative, I will work to foster a more collaborative STEM environment between our public schools and our public research centers.
“Science is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world (8).” President Barack Obama, March 23, 2015
I support Universal Pre-Kindergarten for all Knox County Schools children starting at ages 3 and 4.
The Perry Preschool Study examined 123 children born in poverty starting at the age of 3 or 4 and completing at the age of 40. Half of the children received high-quality preschool education while the other half did not. The study participants who received preschool were found to have had “higher earnings, committed fewer crimes, were more likely to hold a job, and were more likely to have graduated from high school than the study participants who did not receive the preschool education (1).”
The Abecedarian Project showed that “Children in quality preschool programs were less likely to repeat grades, need special education, or get into future trouble with the law (4).”
Quite frankly, children without some form of preschool education are ill-prepared to learn in 21st Century classrooms. Although Knox County provides preschool education for students that qualify (considered at-risk), a need still exists to provide universal pre-kindergarten for all students. Kindergarten teachers should only need to prepare their students for first grade, not prepare their students for kindergarten while they are in kindergarten. As your House Representative, I will work to increase funding in Tennessee for Universal Pre-Kindergarten for 3 and 4 year-old children.
I support Tennessee’s efforts to provide a free two-year or technical college degree for high school graduates. I would like to expand this program to include four-year colleges.
Tennessee has taken major steps to make college more affordable by instituting TN Promise to allow all Tennessee high school graduates to attend a two-year or technical college for free. Tennessee has also expanded that initiative to include adults who would like to earn their first degree for free by using TN Reconnect. As your House Representative, I would like to explore ways to expand TN Promise and TN Reconnect so a four-year college education is free for high school graduates in Tennessee.
Adults now and in the future, will be asked to continue learning to keep up with all of the new opportunities that our rapidly expanding technology innovations are creating. When we are young adults just starting our higher education pursuits and lives, some of us aren’t so sure of what we want to do and what we will become. After 20 years or so, some adults may need new opportunities or have a change of heart in their career choice. The cost of a new degree should not deter anyone from becoming productive and contributing citizens of the workforce. 21st Century jobs require employees to become lifelong students. As your House Representative, I will work to find ways to make college free for Tennessee residents who are second degree seeking students.
- HighScope (n.d.). Perry Preschool Study. Retrieved March 13, 2018 from, highscope.org
- Knox County Schools (n.d.). Teacher Salaries. Retrieved March 13, 2018 from, knoxschools.org
- National Education Foundation (n.d.). College Affordability and Debt Services. Retrieved March 13, 2018 from, nea.org
- National Education Foundation (n.d.). Early Childhood Education. Retrieved March 13, 2018 from, nea.org
- National Education Foundation (n.d.). Professional Pay. Retrieved March 13, 2018 from, nea.org
- National Education Foundation (n.d.). Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Retrieved March 13, 2018 from, nea.org
- National Education Foundation (n.d.). Trump/DeVos Education Budget. Retrieved March 13, 2018 from, nea.org
- S. Department of Education (n.d). Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math: Education for Global Leadership. Retrieved March 13, 2018 from, www.ed.gov