Organizing Success from Tennessee!
On Friday, June 21, TEA organized members and leaders to attend the State Board of Education meeting. The board’s agenda included several proposals that would have been harmful to our members and the profession, including changes to the state minimum salary schedule and tying licensure to student growth.
TEA anticipated mobilizing and recruiting between 75-80 educators, but 150 members and leaders attended the state board meeting. The turnout was due to a number of reasons, but was enhanced greatly because of the organizing work of TEA and NEA staff in advance. For example, several of the leaders and local associations who participated in the meeting also attended a 2-day Issue Organizing training led by TEA and NEA staff. The training included the development of an organizing plan for each participating local to engage and mobilize members to apply pressure to individual members of the board as well as Governor Haslam.
In addition, NEA staff also assisted with training participants who had been selected for TEA’s Minority Leadership Training program. Many of those new and emerging leaders also went back to organize others to attend the meeting on Friday. Utilizing an idea we started during the short-term campaign, TEA was able to borrow laptops from the Alabama Education Association, so that members could send messages to board members and the governor, as well as sign an online petition that NEA Organizational Specialist Cory Wofford helped them set-up via change.org. At Friday’s meeting, TEA Vice President Barbara Gray was able to present a petition that included more than 6,000 signatures. NEA staff was also able to work with UniServ Directors and local presidents to set-up robocalls to members in locals in the surrounding counties of Nashville.
What was expected to be a 9-0 vote, became a 6-3 vote and required the Board to add a preamble indicating the state board’s intention to see salaries increased and to revisit the SMSS if that is not the result over time. This statement would not have occurred had teachers not rallied to defend the state salary schedule. The base salary on the new minimum state salary schedule has been increased by 1.5 percent. The increments have likewise been increased by that amount. This is significant because it was not a part of the proposal Huffman presented to the State Board at the previous meeting.
The Department of Education admitted in its salary schedule fact sheet and in the meeting that local districts can continue to use their existing schedules - including the ability to continue to reward teachers for years of experience and advanced degrees. TEA is now working to determine how to keep the momentum going and use these wins to grow membership in their fall campaigns.