Teacher pay in Hamilton County is low, according to Superintendent Rick Smith, and his proposed budget would address that problem.  

The trick is, convincing county commissioners to raise taxes to fund a proposed five-percent pay raise, and that won't be easy.

With a starting pay of $36,044, Hamilton is well ahead of Grundy County, where the pay starts at $32,076, but behind neighboring Bradley County ($38,330) and Metro Nashville which starts teachers about 11-percent higher at $40,448. 

In Tennessee, a teacher with a Bachelor's degree and 10 years experience earns a base salary of  $39,100 compared to $42,900 in Georgia and $43,300 in Alabama.  

The national average is $44,900.  The discrepancy continues for years, as Tennessee's teachers top out at  $56,900, well behind both Alabama ($63,500) and Georgia ($71,800), and about eight thousand dollars below the national average ($65,100).

Teachers in Tennessee do earn more than the average resident.  The average household income in Tennessee is just over $44,298.

Teachers average $48,970. By comparison, pharmacy technicians make $29,630, firefighters average $38,450, postal service clerks make an average of $47,620 and software developers earn an average of $82,140.

A teacher in Hamilton County starts at $36,044 per year and works 201 days per year for at least 7 hours per day. That averages to $25.62 per hour. Many teachers will work more than the minimum 7 hours and spend some of their own money on school supplies.

District 7 School Board member Donna Horn, a former teacher, says that Hamilton County is the fourth largest district in the state, but teacher pay ranks 34th in the state.  

She says it's getting harder to attract and keep good teachers. Superintendent Smith echoes that belief, saying, "We want to be the best school district in the state, and you can't do that without hiring and retaining the best teachers."

The Hamilton County Commission will hear Smith's budget on May 20, and is expected to vote on it by the end of June.