JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -The Mississippi Legislature is giving the go-ahead for a teacher pay raise. Both the Senate and House approved a $1,500 dollar raise on Thursday.
If you’ve been following this teacher pay bill at all, you know it’s had a few different versions. The Senate version was $1,000 over two years and the House was $4,000 over two years. Here’s how they arrived at this new amount.
The teacher pay raise amount is more than what leaders first said was feasible. So, where did they find more money?
“We thought just the $1,000 pay raise was going to be a little over $50 million," explained Senate Appropriations chairman Sen. Buck Clarke. "And there was a little calculation error that there was some federally paid teachers that had been included in that. And so they were able to pull $12-13 million out of there. And so we more or less instantly said, well with the money we have, what kind of pay raise would that generate?”
That’s what led to the $1,500 dollar amount that the Senate took up first thing Thursday. Some of the debate was familiar.
“It’s not funny," said Sen. Derrick Simmons as he described feedback from constituents. "Is it some legislative joke you all are pulling on the teachers?”
But the attempts to raise the amount in the Senate to have the bill recommitted for further work fell short and they ultimately passed the bill.
In the House, the Education Chairman was frank on his thoughts about the raise amount.
“We came to a compromise as to what we could handle, what we could do for the teachers and the assistants," said Rep. Richard Bennett. "It’s not where we want to be. It’s what we can do.”
The Democrats’ push for more was more specific in the Senate.
“Direct our chairman to tell the Senate that the House took a firm position in favor of a real and significant teacher pay raise this year at 4,000 dollars implemented over two years," said Sen. David Baria. "We can do this folks.” That motion failed and the 1,500 dollar raised passed. But education advocates aren’t pleased.
“We are angry and we are disappointed," said Mississippi Association of Educators President Joyce Helmick. "$1,500 dollars does not prove the value. Does not get us near to that southeastern average.” Now, they’re asking educators to speak up in the form of their votes in the upcoming statewide election.
The bill now goes to the Governor for his approval or veto. The raise is set to take effect July 1.