Teacher, SCS Superintendent react to Governor Lee’s education priorities

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — During his 2021 State of the State, Governor Bill Lee praised school districts back in the classroom, all of them are back except for Shelby County.

Lee said higher teacher pay and COVID support are priorities this year, but SCS teachers say that’s not enough if the state wants them back in the classroom.

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“Even if the governor is not looking out for the best interest of our students, we are,” said Danette Stokes, President of the United Education Association of Shelby County teachers union.

Stokes said she was shocked after hearing the Governor’s address Monday because she was expecting to hear more about the state’s efforts to prioritize teachers for COVID-19 vaccines.

“I really don’t know why he didn’t address it, we’re still in that same place where we are asking for priority access to the vaccine,” said Stokes.

And she isn’t the only one.

SCS Superintendent Joris Ray tweeted out this series of comments after Lee’s address. He said “SCS teachers and employees are still waiting on a priority date for vaccinations. Governor bill lee please assist educators in Memphis/Shelby by confirming availability and access.”

During this speech, Lee said he is making prioritizing education.

“During the special session, we allocated $43 million for teacher pay raises and that was a step in the right direction. And for the budget I’m submitting to you this week for your consideration recommendation of an additional $120 million for teacher compensation in 2021-2022 budget,” said Lee during his address.

This would equal a four percent raise for educators.

But Stokes said that’s a fraction of what they requested.

“Show me your budget, and I’ll show you where you values lies so education has to be a top priority,” said Stokes.

Additionally, Lee announced a $200 million public-private investment in expanding broadband internet service.