"Red for Ed" Teachers holding signs in front of H.G. Hill Middle School on May 1, 2019.

NASHVILLE, TN – More than 1,000 Metro teachers staged a “sickout” Friday, hundreds more than the district anticipated. One hundred twenty-five teachers at McGavock High School stayed home. About one fifth of Metro’s 5,000 certificated teachers didn’t come to work and another 400 uncertificated school employees took the day off.

Mayor David Briley has offered teachers a 3% cost of living raise. They want more like 18%. Briley did increase the school budget by $28.2 million next year but way short of the $76.7 million the district requested. The sickout was staged to draw attention to teachers’ salaries that have not increased for years.

The Metro School Board wants to give teachers a 10% raise and a step increase, which they have not had in three years. A step increase is an incentive based on the number of years on the job. The City Council will debate the Mayor’s proposed school budget May 16. It will likely be a contentious meeting with teachers wearing “Red for Ed” t-shirts and carrying signs.

“This thing happened so fast a lot of us were sort of just sitting back and kind of watching to see what would happen,” said Amanda Kail, founder of “Red for Ed” in Nashville. The group is part of a national movement of teachers fighting for better wages. See


“If the mayor and Metro council do not show clear dedication to fully funding our schools, and by that, I mean that they actively find a way to increase revenues for the city, this sort of thing will continue. Teachers are completely fed up,” Kail said.

Kail said teachers have gone to all the school board meetings, written letters, postcards, and emails to no avail. “We’ve really done every everything we can think of to try and get our city to understand that if our schools are not fully funded things are really going to start falling apart,” she said.

Teachers rallied at Public Square May 23, 2018 to fully fund the MNPS budget and they have staged rallies wearing red and holding signs outside of several Metro schools periodically this school year.

“MNPS’s sickout is another glaring symptom of a broken system,” said Carol Swain. She is challenging Briley in the August mayoral election.  “Mayor Briley should have cut spending and prioritized a 6-10% raise for all Metro employees,” Swain said in a statement.

Swain’s criticism was echoed by other candidates.

“Fiscal mismanagement has brought us to a point where almost half our new money goes to increased debt payments, leaving less money for teacher pay.We need to rebalance city priorities. Teachers are the real developers we should be supporting,” said At-Large Councilman John Cooper.

State Representative John Clemmons(D-Nashville) said public education funding would be his priority as mayor. He noted he has a child in Metro schools.

“During this time of unprecedented prosperity, a lack of leadership and vision in Metro has resulted in teachers being underpaid and overburdened,” Clemmons said.

In a statement, Briley said MNPS will have $34.9 million more in operating and debt service funds next year.

“The Mayor is strongly urging the School Board – which decides how this money is used – to use these funds to provide teacher and staff raises,” Briley said.

“He is committed to finding additional resources to continue increasing teacher pay through a multi-year approach,” the statement said.

The sickout was not sanctioned by the Metro Nashville Education Association, the teachers’ union, and wasn’t organized by the “Wear Red for Ed” group either, according to Kail. She said it just sort of happened because teachers are so fed up.

“My sense is that it will keep happening. I understand that the McGavock group has called for another sick out on Monday. Our city really needs to make some changes,” Kail said.

Clint Confehr contributed to this story.