Frequently Asked Questions About Differentiated Pay
State law [T.C.A § 49-3-306(h)], adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, already requires school districts to adopt and implement differentiated pay plans to aid in staffing hard to staff subject areas and schools and attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers. However, this law has never been enforced. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, the department will begin to enforce this law, and the increased flexibility provided by the new salary schedule will assist districts in meeting this requirement.
The differentiated pay plan policy does not mandate pay for performance. However, the revised differentiated pay plan policy prevents districts from basing across-the-board pay increases solely on years of experience or advanced degrees. Districts must differentiate teacher compensation based on at least one additional criterion. Differentiated pay criteria can include any of the following: additional roles or responsibilities, hard-to-staff schools or subject areas, and performance based on State Board approved teacher evaluation criteria.
The department reached out to the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) to get further guidance on this issue. TCRS stated that TCA § 8-34-101(14)(B)(i)(b) dealing with “Earnable Compensation” governs this issue. If the bonus is available to all teachers (even though it may be up to the teacher to qualify for the actual funds) or if the bonus is offered to a broad class of employees (such as math teachers), then the bonus should be reported to TCRS and employee/employer contributions withheld. The bonus will be included in the calculation of retirement benefits if within the average final compensation (AFC).
According to T.C.A § 49-3-306(h), the Tennessee Department of Education has approval authority of the differentiated pay plans.