Tennessee ranks 45th for student funding, 44th for teacher pay in U.S.

‘The Republican record on public education is starvation budgets,’ says Sen. Lamar

Tennessee Senate Democrats
2 min readMay 2, 2024


A new National Education Association report examining educator salaries and public school financing ranks Tennessee among the worst states in the nation for student funding and teacher pay.

Nationally, Tennessee ranked 45th for per student spending — behind all eight of our neighboring states — and 44th for average teacher salary. Even worse, the report shows that after adjusting for inflation, average teacher pay in Tennessee is 10.4% less today than it was 10 years ago.

“Low pay limits the ability to attract and retain quality educators in the profession amid a looming educator shortage and sagging educator morale due chiefly to low pay and poor working conditions,” the report says.

Another key finding in the report: the union advantage. “Teachers earn 26% more, on average, in states with collective bargaining” — a negotiating tactic outlawed in 2011 by Tennessee’s Republican-controlled state legislature.

Sen. London Lamar, Senate Democratic Caucus chairwoman, said the NEA research shows how Republicans lawmakers in Tennessee are failing students and teachers.

“The Republican record on public education is starvation budgets, disrespect for teachers and voucher scams that defund our neighborhood schools,” Lamar said. “This session was no different. Instead of giving teachers a real raise or investing in greatly needed support for students, Gov. Bill Lee and Republicans gave corporations a $1.9 billion handout and tax break.

“That’s the difference,” Lamar added. “While Republicans are abandoning our public schools, Democrats are fighting to ensure our schools are well funded, accessible and safe for all students and that teachers are paid what they’re worth.”

Source: National Education Association, Rankings and Estimates Report 2024