KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A local lawmaker is speaking out against a proposed measure that could alter the way teachers are paid in the state.
Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville District 13) gathered around two dozen Knox County educators Wednesday afternoon for a roundtable discussion.
Later this week, the state's Board of Education will vote on a plan that purposes changes to the state minimum salary schedule.
The 1.5 percent salary increase in the governor's budget was not applied to the salary schedule, which would ensure that all teachers receive a raise. Instead, the funds will be given to the district as a sum of money for the local school board to apply as it sees fit.
The proposal would change the annual step raise to every five years and would change how those with advanced degrees are paid.
The measure was first recommended by Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.
Supporters say it gives local school systems more flexibility on how they compensate their teachers.
The proposed schedule is designed to remove barriers and compensation structures.
Rep. Johnson says it could reduce earnings and eliminate incentives for advanced training.
"They're going to be losing a lot of dollars every year. We're talking about thousands of dollars in lost salaries," said Johnson.
The Tennessee Teachers Association says a teacher with a doctorate and 30 years experience would make $319,855 less in that time frame compared to the current salary structure.
A teacher with a bachelor's degree and 20 years experience would make $28,585 less in that time frame compared to the current salary schedule, according to TEA.
"We've got a salary schedule that works well in Knox County and awards teachers for advanced degrees, and we need to keep that," said Sherry Morgan, president of the Knox County Education Association.
Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre says the plan gives each school system flexibility and more innovative pay structures.
McIntyre argues overall teacher compensation shouldn't decrease because the plan better aligns compensation with student outcomes.
"It gives us some additional opportunities in terms of how we schedule our salary schedule, and by large it's a good thing," said McIntyre.
Knox County school employees will get a 2.5 percent bump next year and are already eligible for bonuses through the APEX program.
McIntyre says the proposed structure wouldn't have a significant impact on the school system in the 2013-2014 year because teachers' salaries have already set.
"This particular vote that the state Board of Education is taking isn't going to make a major difference in the upcoming school year," McIntyre said.
Other worries are that higher degrees won't be as valued.
The current schedule requires raises for personnel with a master's degree, education specialists and doctorate degrees.
The new schedule applies to all licensed personnel, without separate minimums for system administrators.
"I don't see always why teachers why they always have justified pay they get; we're already one of the lowest paid professions," said Cindy Awad, a kindergarten teacher at Lonsdale Elementary.
An individual district cannot reduce a teacher's pay below that amount regardless of the type of compensation reform put in place for 2014-15.
The final reading of the proposal will happen at Friday's state board of education meeting.
Knoxville Chamber Mike Edwards is on the state board of education.
6 News reached out to Edwards, but were told he is on vacation.
Edwards and every board member supported the measure on the first reading.