Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee took a giant step in protecting teachers from the demands of labor unions Wednesday. He signed a bill into law that not only increases pay for the state’s teachers, but it liberates them from obligatory union dues.
The Teacher Paycheck Protection Act set the minimum pay for educators in the Volunteer State at $50,000 by 2026.
Teachers are also not subject to automatic union deductions from their pay by unions that many educators criticize for left-wing political activism.
The Tennessee Education Association (TEA) is the largest teacher union in the Volunteer State. It raked in over $9 million in 2018 and donated over a half a million dollars to political candidates in the same year.
In a video acquired by the Daily Wire, Lee declared that teachers should control their paychecks and that education funds should benefit students and not bankroll politics.
He added that his office wanted to ensure that educators enjoyed their “well-deserved raises” and that union dues were not automatically deducted from their pay.
— Daily Wire News (@DailyWireNews) May 18, 2023
Lee asserted the pay increase puts Tennessee in the top 10 in the U.S. for compensation. The $50,000 minimum set for 2026 is a far cry from 2019’s $35,000.
Sen. Bill Powers (R) of Clarksville noted that the substantial increase will assist in recruiting talented educators and alleviate staffing shortages.
Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R) of Franklin, the bill’s sponsor in the upper chamber, said in a statement that teachers are charged with “educating the next generation. This legislation recognizes the importance of teachers’ work by raising their pay.”
He also applauded the measure for protecting these salaries from union demands. The salary increases are being worked in through the 2026-27 school year until the base salary reaches $50,000.
And while teacher raises are hardly controversial, the stifling of mandatory union fees will certainly draw pushback. As with virtually all education unions, the TEA has taken a notably left-wing stand on political issues in recent years.
It came down on the side of liberal advocacy on everything from COVID-19 policies to charter schools. It also opposed a 2021 Tennessee law banning Critical Race Theory from being taught in public classrooms.