By BRIAN GRAVES
State Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) said Thursday it is time for the state to develop a codified definition of “teacher.”The state legislator announced his intention to move on the idea …
State Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) said Thursday it is time for the state to develop a codified definition of “teacher.”
The state legislator announced his intention to move on the idea during remarks to the Cleveland/Bradley Economic Development Council.
Gardenhire, who serves as a vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said this is the sixth year he was worked on the bill.
“In the state codes, there is no definition for the word ‘teacher,’” Gardenhire said. “Gov. Haslam said we are going to give $100 million for teacher salaries and raises. That is just turned over in lump sums to each school district and they spend it however they want to. In a lot of school districts, the teachers don’t get it. It goes for insurance and other benefits, but they don’t get the cash.
“So, I have asked everybody to come up with the definition of a classroom teacher,” he said. “Everybody says we want to keep that person in the classroom and make that person the most important person there.
“But when you do, these days, if you are a teacher you just have to have a teacher’s certificate,” Gardenhire said. “A lot of teachers have to leave the classrooms for financial reasons and move up the ladder to support their families. This puts the emphasis back down to the classroom. It’s Economy 101: If you want to keep somebody somewhere, you pay them enough to where they want to stay there.
“There will be a lot of squawling and yelling by other people in other levels, but the definition will be if you spend more than 75 percent of your time in the discipline you were trained in for the classroom in front of kids, you are a classroom teacher,” he said “Then in the future when we allocate money for teachers’ raises or benefits, it will go to the classroom teachers who are facing those kids.”
He also announced a bill which he has developed with the Tennessee Board of Regents would benefit Cleveland State and four other community colleges by providing a “dual-enrollment scholarship.”
“Right now, if a student takes dual enrollment, they don’t get it paid for by anybody,” Gardenhire explained. “This sets up a scholarship at the front end so high school students can pay for that dual enrollment credit.”
He said Gov. Bill Haslam liked the idea, but did not place it in the new budget “because there wasn’t enough money left in the budget to do it.”
“But TBR is all for it, they picked the five schools, I’m a proud sponsor of it and we think we’ve got a good shot of getting some of that money in there.”
Gardenhire said the state would have roughly a $50 million surplus and “there are 132 people trying to get a piece of that.”
“That tells you it doesn’t go far,” he said.
Cleveland State Community College President Dr. Bill Seymour said the scholarships are focused on the mechatronics programs.
“It took the new chancellor of the TBR to sit everybody down and tell them and say to pick five schools and let’s use this as a pilot program,” Gardenhire said.
Seymour noted there are only five community colleges that make a dual-enrollment program available.
“It could be a game changer for this area,” the senator said.
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