Maury County Public Schools plans to use recent state funds to provide a bonus for all educators.
Approved during the Tennessee General Assembly’s January special session on education, lawmakers allotted a 2% raise for teachers’ salaries and other certified educators, including school administrators, librarians, social workers and counselors.
MCPS Superintendent Michael Hickman described the state’s immediate increase in pay as “a misguided initiative,” emphasizing the increase only funds positions that are approved in the Basic Education Program, or the state formula used to fund all school districts.
“We had to bring up the other employees who are not licensed,” Hickman said, during the school board’s monthly work session held remotely on Tuesday.
Instead of offering a 2% raise for certified positions only, Hickman proposed that the school district provide a one-time $448 bonus to all of the school district’s educators.
Maury County Finance Director Doug Lukonen said the bonus for all employees will combine the state money with funds from the school district’s fund balance to include those employees not covered under the BEP formula.
The proposed bonus would cost a total of $891,250.19. Approximately $537,500 of those funds would be allotted through BEP state funding, while MCPS would need to spend $353,750.19 of its own funds to ensure all teachers see the one-time boost in pay.
Lukonen told board members the bonus was within the school district’s financial means.
As of January, the school district’s general purpose fund has a balance nearing $20 million.
Hickman’s proposal was met with support by school board members.
“To be equitable, we need to take care of everybody,” said Bettye Kinser, the board’s former chair and a retired district educator.
The proposal will appear as a consent item at the school board’s next monthly meeting.
Additional increases to be considered by state leaders
During his third State of the State address on Monday, Gov. Bill Lee called for an additional 4% raise for educators among all state employees in addition to the immediate 2% raise approved in the special session.
Lee’s proposed raise will be considered by the General Assembly as it drafts its budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.
Both Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, and Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, who hold positions on the state’s education committees, support the governor’s proposal.
However, the two told The Daily Herald the decision ultimately remains with the state’s local school boards, which will determine how those funds will ultimately be used.
School board member Wayne Lindsey stressed the importance that the public be made aware that the state’s proposal will not be enough to fund raises for all of the school district’s employees.
“We as a board need to do a good job of communicating that to everyone,” Lindsey said.