Why Would Anyone Want to Teach in Tennessee?

Track HB 740 here

This is a question I keep asking myself as bill after bill slides right through the state legislature.

Teachers Should be Angry
via Principal Principles

Last year it was the right to have a seat at the table when negotiating salary, class sizes, and all sorts of other things. This year its tenure and perhaps most egregious, payment of student loans.

I have student loans. So does just about everyone I know that has graduated from college in the past 20 years or so.

Quite honestly, you can’t go to school, even with scholarships, without some kind of loan unless your parents have the money to pay for school outright…which is a very small minority of people.

Student loans, like every other kind of loan, are a contract between the institution loaning the money (often backed by the Federal Government) and the individual requesting the loan. Like all those other loans, there is a process by which the lender can seek relief if the individual is not paying their loan back. Garnishments, court, you name it. They have ways to get paid.

So I’m kind of stunned (though I probably shouldn’t be) that members of the state legislature are seeking to decline, suspend, or revoke the licenses of teacher if they haven’t kept up with the student loans. I mean, wow. That seems unnecessarily punitive to me.

I’m curious to know how the sponsors of this bill expect those student loans to ever get paid if the people can’t work, but I’m even more curious to know where it will stop.

Will teachers also lose their license for defaulting on a car loan? Paying their credit card bill late? What about the cable bill? I know there are a lot of legislators that collected a pretty penny in donations from ATT when they were pushing their cable service legislation up there a few years ago. Will people get effectively fired for not paying for their uVerse bill?

Tennessee is in the middle of the pack in terms of starting teacher pay (22nd by my count), and 33rd in the nation by average salary. What’s more, because the state government funds education so shabbily (we’re 46th in the nation) most teachers have to spend thousands of dollars of their own money to get the things they need to adequately equip their classrooms.

Considering the average starting salary for a teacher in the state of TN is around $32,400, by the time you take out taxes, school supplies and living expenses there isn’t all that much left for repaying student loans.

This is a choice the Tennessee legislature has made, to be the fourth lowest funder of education in the United States, which, in turn, impacts teacher salaries, equipment, as well as other resources in the educational system and student achievement. Now they are choosing to insert themselves in the personal finances of teachers and punish them if they can’t make it with the meager amount of money they appropriate to education.

At this point it should be fairly clear that the enemy is not what they’ve told us it was. Last year the boogey man was Teacher Unions. We were led to believe that the General Assembly, upon slaying that dragon, would actually start working on real things like increasing educational investment, or working to improve the quality of the overall school environment. But no, this bill directly attacks the teachers themselves, as individuals, not some disembodied third party.

The enemy of this GOP controlled legislature is Teachers and its time for Teachers to start fighting back.

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