NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A 2022-2023 report from the Tennessee Education Association ranks Davidson County teachers as the highest-paid in the state. At Tuesday night’s Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) Board of Education meeting, however, lack of adequate pay, lack of staffing, and teachers experiencing homelessness were all concerns brought before board members.

“Teachers are here because we love children, but that is not an excuse to make them live paycheck to paycheck in America’s ‘it’ city,” said Beverly Whalen, an MNPS employee.

Many members of the Metro Nashville Education Association (MNEA) attended the meeting and spoke publicly.

They asked for longevity pay and for the district to ensure regular pay increases that recognize teachers’ commitment.

“These are our elders, our mentors, the leaders of our professional learning communities,” said Mary Jo Cramb, an MNPS teacher. “We must show them the respect they have earned. Not just with pins and mugs during teacher appreciation week, but where it really counts in their paychecks.” 

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One substitute teacher suggested increasing daily pay for substitutes because she said it hasn’t been raised in 10 years.

Another speaker said some teachers are living paycheck to paycheck.

“The truth of the matter is we have homeless teachers in our ranks. I know of two personally and I understand that there are others,” said Laura Leonard, an MNPS employee. “This is a condition that is unfit for all people everywhere, but especially for teachers because it is so wholly unmerited. How effective or efficient can a homeless teacher be?”

Sean Braisted, the spokesperson for MNPS, encourages any teacher in need of assistance to reach out to Human Resources.

“Mayor Cooper, the Metro Council, and the board have approved nearly 67 million dollars in the past two years to go toward teacher compensation,” said Braisted. “We have actually the highest paid of any public school district in the state of Tennessee and that’s something we’re really proud of.” 

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Braisted said the schools operate, on average, at a 3% staff vacancy and have hired full-time general school assistants to ensure there’s always someone available for students.

“We know that longevity pay is a concern, it’s something we’ve been looking at, and so as we roll out our budget in the next few months, that’s something that we’ll be looking to address as well,” said Braisted.

MNPS is hosting a hiring fair on Saturday, March 4 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel, located at 2025 Rosa L Parks Boulevard.