NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — There are more than 120 teacher positions still open as of a couple of weeks ago in Metro Nashville Public Schools, according to a spokesperson for the district.
Educators say one of the main reasons behind the vacancies is pay.
“Lots of classes that don’t have teachers, students are being put into larger classrooms, being split into classrooms, schedules are being moved around and that is a matter of not having a body for every position that we are supposed to have,” said 8th-grade math teacher Keith Wilson.
According to data from the National Council on Teacher Quality, a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree made $42,082 during the 2015-2016 school year.
This year, a new teacher will make $48,121.
But when you take into account inflation and run the 2015 and 2022 salaries through the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator, $42,082 has the same buying power as $52,242 now.
Therefore, a new teacher is making $4,121 less now compared to what they would’ve made in 2015.
For teachers with higher degrees and more experience, inflation has also taken a big cut out of the planned salary increases that they only started getting consistently a couple of years ago after years of it not being included in the budget.
To make ends meet, Wilson worked two jobs for his first seven years as a teacher.
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He kept his bartending job and would even serve drinks on weekdays because the starting salary of a teacher with a Master’s degree wasn’t enough. At first, he thought he would only need to work two jobs for a couple of years because he was expecting his salary to increase yearly as he was promised. But when those increases never came, he had to keep both jobs.
“I felt really unseen, unheard, and kind of an afterthought for every year where that salary step was skipped when they made my salary the easiest budget cut that just makes you feel unseen,” he said.
Wilson says he made about $41,000 when he began at MNPS, and according to the teacher pay scale should be making about $58,000 this year.
If you adjust for inflation, he is making around $7,000 more now than he was in 2013.
He says he is happy about the recent increases and the efforts by Metro Council to improve teacher pay, but more has to be done to bring back the people who have left the profession over the last few years or attract new teachers.
“You have to do something to entice people in. If you are asking for 60, 70 hour weeks at one end there has to be something on the other side,” said 8th-grade math teacher Keith Wilson.