JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Several new laws are taking effect in the state. One of those authorizes a $1,500 pay raise for public school teachers... but a miscalculation was discovered and revealed that lawmakers were millions short in funding the raises.
With the new law taking effect, teachers will get their raise. The issue is that not enough was approved to cover the full cost. The Department of Education database referenced during the legislative session did not include some special funded teachers like special ed, gifted and career and technical. That left what original estimates indicated to be around a $14 million shortfall.
“We are hopeful that that will not come from local district funds,” noted The Parents’ Campaign Executive Director Nancy Loome.
There’s no new solution and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Senator Derrick Simmons worries they are leaving too many variables.
“We could actually do a deficit appropriation in January," said Senator Simmons. "But we don’t know who the governor will be. We don’t know who will be the Lt. Governor or the Speaker. So, it’s a problem in the current term. And so we should fix the problem.”
That idea of a deficit appropriation is what the Department of Education is referencing in its latest statement.
“Districts enter into contracts based upon promises that the legislature made and we did not come through with our promise but the school districts, they still have to, according to the law, meet the obligation that they made to those teachers," explained Sen. Simmons. "It’s such a bad situation to be in for those school districts.”
And as The Parents’ Campaign explains, this is just adding to the larger issues surrounding teachers in the state.
“We really do have a teacher shortage crisis," added Loome. "Districts just can’t find enough teachers and a big piece of that is the salary and it’s also the perception among teachers about the level of support they’re getting from elected officials.”