By Karen Campbell
Weakley County Schools Communications Director
WEAKLEY COUNTY (July 12) — While state funds were taken off the table due to COVID-19 related financial losses, Weakley County teachers will be receiving an increase in pay thanks to a unanimous vote by County Commissioners.
When the Tennessee General Assembly concluded in June, the proposed 4 percent raise for teachers had been reduced to 2 percent, then relegated to a bonus and, ultimately, no financial increase of any kind was included in the state budget that had been overhauled to address COVID-19 related losses.
Prior to the pandemic, Weakley County Schools Director Randy Frazier had planned to present the 2020-21 budget to the County Commission with an additional plea to address an existing teacher salary crisis in the county.
Last week, he shared the proposed budget and included 20 additional minutes noting that “Weakley County Schools leverages every dollar possible to keep class sizes small and keep funding in the community. Despite these efforts, we rank near the bottom in the region when it comes to the percentage of teachers we provide above what the state funds,” he told the county officials.
A recent survey revealed Weakley County first year teachers receive the lowest salary of the ten districts in the area and ranks 122nd out of 126 reporting districts statewide. Out of the 10 area districts – Bradford, Milan, Gibson County Special, Huntingdon, Union City, Obion County, McKenzie, Paris Special, and Weakley County – Weakley has the greatest number of students (3,985) and teachers (297).
“We have the lowest per pupil funding in our area for districts providing transportation to students. Yet, we have a ten-year history of property tax revenue being shifted away from our schools,” he reported. Adding, “Weakley County competes with area schools for the education graduates coming out of area universities. If the best and brightest new graduates are considering salary, they are not choosing Weakley County Schools.”
Frazier also pointed out that in the last three years, 85 percent of teachers who have left the district (excluding retirees) left for more money, better opportunity, and/or a bordering district.
Another issue facing the school district is a continuing $424,780 annual payment of debt service for capital projects such as HVAC, Adult Learning Center project, and lighting upgrades in the system.
After the presentation, commissioners unanimously approved a motion to take over the debt service payment and for the school district to use the $424,780 to increase teachers’ and administrators’ salaries.
Frazier estimates the minimum raise will result in an additional $2,000.
“This action by the Commission will go a long way toward improving our recruitment efforts and, in a time of increased demand on our teachers as they face challenges of returning to school, will be a tangible reminder that the County recognizes their contributions to the community. We are grateful for the Commission’s positive movement in the right direction,” said Frazier.
By Karen Campbell