Register to Metro Council: Higher teacher pay would send 'clear message'

Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 12:10am

Simply the rumor Metro might pay new teachers higher salaries has generated additional interest in Nashville among teacher applicants, Director of Schools Jesse Register told Metro Council members Wednesday.

“I’ll tell you, we do not have a shortage of people trying to teach right now in our district,” Register said at a council budget hearing Wednesday that lasted nearly five hours, surpassing the length a public hearing the previous night.

“Increasing our teacher salary,” Register said, “sends a very clear message that Nashville means business when it comes to getting the best teachers for all of our children.”

Lifting Metro’s starting teachers’ salaries to $40,000 from approximately $35,000 has emerged as one of the focal points of Mayor Karl Dean’s proposed $1.71 billion budget, which relies on a 53-cent property tax increase. The council will consider Dean’s budget and tax hike for a final vote later this month.

Register and the mayor are looking to increase the schools’ budget to $720.4 million over the next fiscal year, a $48.6 million bump, a big chunk of which would be devoted to teacher pay. Both men have said Metro would emerge as third-highest paying district in Tennessee, up from 30th today.

According to Register, Nashville’s teacher pay would begin to “compete with other districts around the nation.” He listed a handful of cities and their salaries: Atlanta, $44,000; Houston, $45,000; Louisville, $39,000; and Memphis, $41,000.

“We are not only in competition with other Tennessee school systems for the best teachers,” Register said. “We are in competition with other states and other salaries.”

On Wednesday, Councilwoman Emily Evans pressed Register on the topic, however, as she asked what quantifiable measures would improve if the plan were adopted. She wanted numbers.

“What’s going to get better?” Evans asked of the proposed teacher pay plan.

“Test scores,” Register responded, though he provided a caveat: “We’re going to make advances this year. But the last thing to change is the test score.”

Register, at the helm at Metro schools for three and a half years, told council members Wednesday that his reform agenda known as MNPS Achieves is turning the district into a “model of excellence.” He cited the district’s reduced dropout rate and an improving graduation rate of 76.2 percent. He said the district met all its state First to the Top improvement goals this past year.

But Evans, who represents parts of Bell Meade, challenged Register on what the district would “consider success” over the next year when it comes to state-mandated test scores. He said he would like Metro to “significantly” raise achievement levels and “close the achievement gap.”

Register declined to define “significant” when Evans asked him to do so. “I’m not going to answer that at this time,” he said.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Evans responded.

Evans’ questioning offered the most colorful exchange during a five-hour hearing that saw Register discuss in detail new items the school district’s proposed budget would fund: 90 additional teachers, the opening of the new Cane Ridge Elementary School, a new so-called “Bridge School” to help students transition from middle to high school, and the mayor’s “Music Makes Us program, billed as an overhaul of Metro’s music program.

“This year, the Metro schools’ budget is centered on instructional needs,” Register said.

In addition, the mayor’s robust $299.7 million capital-spending plan sets aside $97 million for school building improvements. Stratford High School would get a $20 million makeover, while Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet School would get a long-awaited gymnasium and other upgrades.

Register’s visit to the council came on the heels of the district’s announcement that it had cut approximately 130 special-education paraprofessionals, totaling $2.5 million, as a result of depleted federal stimulus funds. Metro parents of special-needs children have roundly criticized the plan, though school officials insist their policies for inclusive special education won’t cease.

Councilman Bo Mitchell, running as a Democrat for a state House seat, took exception with the district’s paraprofessional cuts Wednesday. He suggested special education services would lack essential manpower.

“We’re losing the federal money, I understand that,” Mitchell said, before listing off other seemingly less significant items the district is funding. “We might not be able to find money in this budget for all 130, but I think we need to look.”

23 Comments on this post:

By: spooky24 on 6/7/12 at 6:56

Getting any real information on Metro's operating budget is quite impossible since the real school budget is in lock down in the Reichstag (sorry, I meant Bradsford Ave) and the overall spending plan is safety put away in the bunker of the Old Chancellery (sorry I meant the Finance department) so any attempt to analyze it is dubious at best.
The biggest deception (out and out lie is what it really is) is the 8% figure for debt service in the coming years budget. All one needs to do is go back to the Mayors first term and look at the refinance deal on the cities debt to see clearly the debt service for the upcoming year(1212-1213) will be 18% according to the documents submitted at the time.
Nice slight of hand by the Finance department however when disgruntled employees leave the department they should be required(by their severance agreement) to keep their mouth's shut by signing a written contract to that effect.

Reminds me of the Scott Peterson trial and the taped conversation between the stupidest criminal in history and his Mother. "Don't worry about nothing just deny-deny-deny and it will be fine"
Now that was some great advise wasn't it.


By: BigPapa on 6/7/12 at 7:00

I'm glad someone actually asked a question instead of just sitting there listening to someone toss around platitudes and fuzzy language.

If anything I'd think his opening remark would fly in the face of the market. If indeed we do NOT have a shortage of people wanting to teach in Metro then there doesn't appear to be a market driven reason to increase the pay. Apparently there are a dearth of teachers out there.

By: Sylvan Park on 6/7/12 at 7:14

Why don't we just send all kids to Ensworth or MBA? It's much cheaper per student than what the property owners of Davidson County are currently giving to inept government adminstrators. We'd save a bundle!

By: slacker on 6/7/12 at 7:49

So.. the not-so-good teachers we have now, will improve if we increase their salary?
Or.. we hire the-very-good teachers and fire the not-so-good teachers?
Or.. Register is just spinning to get an increased school budget?

By: JeffF on 6/7/12 at 8:13

You have to admit, it is pretty convenient to have the ability to say things like “We are not only in competition with other Tennessee school systems for the best teachers, we are in competition with other states and other salaries.” without anyone questioning that logic.

Nashville is being decimated by competition with our immediate suburban neighbors and the response is to selectively choose "peers" from other states and compete with them? See, if we compare ourselves with Tennessee districts not named Memphis City Schools it will be pointed out that we are getting hosed on the accomplishments-per-dollar-of-salary metric and MNEA would never get those raises they expect. Removing us from competition with districts with successful strategies and selecting peers with higher pay gets the school system where they want to be, more money-not so great of requirements to accomplish anything with it.

I still cannot believe their request still has money for improvements to the decrepit Hume-Fogg campus. It is just too expensive to make improvements to a school that is in that area. Please take the advise of others and move that school to an area where it can still thrive and get the physical plant it needs and deserves WITHOUT busting the bank. There is zero logical reasons to have a high school in a downtown neighborhood with almost zero population of school-aged kids.

By: Rasputin72 on 6/7/12 at 8:17

You can pay starting teachers $100,000 dollars a year if you like. Based on "what" is currently enrolled in the Davidson County school system you will not raise the graduation rate or the academic acceptance level of the student population.

Does anyone not realize what kind of children are enrolled in the Davidson County school system as a group? These kids are from a culture light years away from what educators and politicians base their educational assumptions.

By: Specter47 on 6/7/12 at 8:22

Jesse "So-so-so-so" Register is as full of crap as they come. He and his "boys" who bend over at his command have to do something to try to bring in more teachers to replace the throngs leaving Metro because of the failures initiated by the Register Administration. Some people will do anything for money, and working in a failing school district for a few thousand more is an inticement according to Register. Hey, Jess...if you really want to intice them, offer combat pay. Now THAT they would deserve.

By: BigPapa on 6/7/12 at 9:07

It's certainly a "chicken salad out of chicken 'spit''" situation but the idea that paying teachers more will in any way affect the out come is crazy.

He said himself that a lot of people want the job, so why increase the pay? Now if you want to increase the pay to the folks that prove their worth, or go the extra mile- go for it. But increasing everyone just because they've been there X number of years isn't the way to go.

By: Shane Smiley on 6/7/12 at 10:03

MNPS has the ability to call for a referendum if they want additional funds above the 6% annual increase dictated by the Metro charter. If they want more money, let them put the cards on the table and ask the tax payer for the money via public vote. This is the only hope the residents of Davidson county of any transparency from the MNPS camp.
Call your council members and push for a school budget referendum.

By: mg357 on 6/7/12 at 11:14

mg357...Rasputin...Right on! IMO mentioning the salary in Memphis was the stone killer in this article. Memphis can lay claim to over half of the 800 Tennessee schools that are failing. In a rational mind that would mean that throwing money down a rat hole isn't the answer. There's also the $90 million donated by the Gates Foundation at stake because that money is being monitored for results.There is also another factor that may not be mentioned. 70 schools in Memphis are now feeding 3 meals a day to students which has the taxpayers in an uproar because they are paying for the same service twice, food stamps at home and then paying again at school for 3 meals. You could have Harvard and Yale professors teaching but it all comes down to this, *you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear minus the silk*! Why mention Atlanta...weren't the teachers altering the test scores?

By: pswindle on 6/7/12 at 11:39

Register is in lock step with Haslam, Dean and the Legislative Branch. Help us all!!!!!!!!!!!!

By: concretemike on 6/7/12 at 11:54

Register to Metro Council: Higher teacher pay would send 'clear message'

Why not send a message to the substandard teachers in MNPS and put them on notice that starting in 2014 school year the lowest performing 10% of teachers will be let go at the end of the school year. Lay out the standards in black and white so there are no questions of what is expected and roll on. This includes ALL teachers with more than 2 years of experience in MNPS and tenure doesn't come into play here. This gives them 2 calendar years to get their act together and DO THEIR JOBS! If they choose to move on someplace else because accountability isn't in their job description "bye-bye". This is called the "Stick".

Now in 2015 we will start providing raises to the top 25% of teachers who have been in the MNPS system for at least 2 years. Lay out the standards in black and white so there are no questions of what is expected and roll on. This is called the "Carrot".

To give raises for a new hire that hasn’t proven themself in a classroom setting yet is foolish. To celebrate a graduation rate of 76.2 percent is ludicrous. MNPS failed in their job for 23.8% of their students last year. What employer is going to want to hire someone who failed out of high school? What employer looking to move to the Nashville area is going to look at these numbers and be impressed? I guess maybe a call center, telemarketing bozos or seasonal construction firm but no good paying, full time, benefit providing business would touch those numbers. I know we need ditch diggers and someone to hand us a brat at the Titans game on Sunday but these jobs don’t help build a life, grow a family or get someone off of the government teat that taxpayers all fund.

Nashville can ill afford poor performing schools and the students who might graduate but with what skills for the real world? I stopped in a fast food restaurant yesterday and the high school senior (Class of 2013 because I asked) couldn't make the correct change without counting on her fingers for the $20.00 I handed her when the cash register display didn't work. Seriously the bill was $14.57 and making $5.43 in change was killing her. I suggested she cut back on fake nails and piercings to concentrate on math because it will be a very important skill for her future. Maybe she has plans to compete for that interstate off ramp with the next “Contributor” salesperson, not much need for math when you don’t need change for a dollar……….

By: cadillac5 on 6/7/12 at 12:47

Major Dean and President Obama solve their problems the same way tax,regulate and spend.The idea that more money solves the problem is always the suggestion by special interest and politicians.Of course this reads other people money which requires no self discipline .Our leaders do not perform at any higher level than do our teachers or students

By: Jughead on 6/7/12 at 2:59

Typical liberal tax-n-spend propaganda. Always for the schools---just keep feeding the bloated education beast.

By: Jughead on 6/7/12 at 3:00

I've got a better message to Karl Marx Dean and his wasteful council: AUSTERITY. There's a recession, doncha guess you don't.

By: East37206 on 6/7/12 at 3:06

The "pay more starting salary" b/c we'll get better teachers is flawed logic for a couple of reasons.

Mainly, MNPS can recruit and hire just fine (and so doesn't need to pay up to start)...they have a problem retaining teachers.

Register's own comments on "we have a ton of applicants" back this up. Teacher supply is high b/c teaching programs at higher ed institutions are prolific, their quality control is weak, so they graduate lots of teachers each year...creating a large supply of teachers.

Retaining teachers.
MNPS' teacher salary scale is an antiquated step and ladder system, based on the factory teaching model. Many teachers aren't rewarded or incentivized to move up in career trajectory or rewarded for differentiated roles (teaching math, science or ELL, hard to staff positions).

In addition, for most teachers, salary isn't the #1 consideration. It is usually #3 or #4 on the list. Safety of the school, supportive work environment, motivated kids, summers off are big motivators. Look at area private schools or Williamson County. Lots of good teachers go into those schools even though salary is lower. They want to be there more than they want to be in Metro.

Instead of raising starting teacher pay, they ought to use existing funding (they have a lot of it) to differentiate teacher roles more...move away from a locked step and ladder system. Plus, neither having a master's degree or years of experience, what the step and ladder system is based on, has any statistical bearing on if kids achieve have greater academic success or not.

By: playthegame on 6/7/12 at 4:44

Listen up Sheeple...Give Register more money...Results are coming...Believe me they are coming...Believe me they are...Believe me they... Believe me... Believe...Ooops. what comes next?

Listen up Sheeple...Give Dean more tax money...Results are coming...

By: Left-of-Local on 6/7/12 at 5:19

Yeah. austerity has worked really well in Europe. Let's try THAT.


By: BigPapa on 6/8/12 at 6:56

I'd like to hear exactly what people think a starting teachers salary should be? Every time something is brought up it seems to be "understood" that teachers are "under paid", but honestly should someone step out of college with a teaching certificate and start out making $65,000 a year? (Remember the kindergarten teachers start out making the same as the physics teacher, the same as the PE teacher...)

Given that the job only requires a college degree and certification I'd say the pay is about right, especially if there are a surplus of applicants.

By: Jughead on 6/8/12 at 7:25

@Lefty: What kinda moron are you? Europe is leading the way to a depression because of a LACK of austerity. Hello? Greece? Portugal? Spain?

Are you really that stupid? Want to see austerity work? Research Estonia.


By: Jughead on 6/8/12 at 7:26

Metro Gov't has become a beast that will never be satisfied. Then, council and Karl Dean send me their damn bill.


By: thinking12 on 6/11/12 at 8:36

It's bail out time again for us "the taxpayers of America".

Maybe we "bail out "of Davidson county instead of trying to make sense of the things Mr. Dean and Mr. Register say.

We are not here to bail you out -you are (obiviously)not to big to fail!!!!!!!!
You have been doing a fine job of it for at least three years now.

All these previous comments are so on the mark -I, for one, do not want to bail out one more poorly run,greedy, short sighted organization. And that is all I feel MNPS and Mr. Dean is....but trying to disguise itself as someone who knows or cares.

By: gdiafante on 6/12/12 at 6:05

It seems that reading comprehension is a problem here...aren't they trying to increase starting salaries? I believe the thinking is not that there are a lack of candidates, but a lack of quality candidates. How do you attract the best?

I'll wait...