Bill Lee Signs Bill Exempting Teachers From Union Payments

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) recently signed a bill into law allowing teachers in the state to be exempt from mandatory union payments. The law will also increase teachers’ salaries.

The law, known as the Teacher Paycheck Protection Act, requires the minimum salary for teachers to be $50,000 a year by 2026 and that teachers unions cannot automatically withdraw money from those paychecks. Teachers unions across Tennessee have received criticism over political activism, and state lawmakers have called to remove their mandatory dues for years.

“We’re also making sure that teachers actually receive their well-deserved raises and that union membership dues are never automatically deducted from teacher paychecks. Teachers should have control over their hard-earned paycheck and taxpayer dollars should be used to educate students and not fund politics,” Lee said in a video obtained by The Daily Wire.

According to supporters of the Teacher Paycheck Protection Act, the Tennessee Education Association (TEA), the state’s largest teacher union, provided over $500,000 to political candidates in 2018 and received over $9 million in revenue during that same year.

In recent years, TEA has engaged in controversial political issues, taking a left-leaning approach on topics ranging from COVID-19 policies to charter schools. The organization opposed a 2021 law banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory in classrooms and has opposed legislation for charter schools.

During the legislation’s passage through the General Assembly, the bill was supported by Americans for Prosperity Tennessee, a conservative group. State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R) and House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R) sponsored the legislation.

“Teachers are tasked with the incredibly important job of educating the next generation,” Johnson said. “This legislation recognizes the importance of teachers’ work by raising their pay and protecting their paychecks. It will also enhance the quality of our education system by helping attract and retain talented teachers.”

The new law’s pay increases won’t become established until teachers receive a base salary of $50,000 for the 2026-2027 school year. Lee described the increases as “the largest pay increase in Tennessee history” for teachers, adding that Tennessee is now “a top ten state for teacher pay.”

State Sen. Bill Powers (R), another sponsor of the legislation, said it would help “mitigate teacher shortages.”

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