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Education advocates react to latest developments on teacher pay raise bill

Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 8:13 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi teachers are breathing another sigh of relief Wednesday as the pay raise bill clears another hurdle. But they’re still anxious as they wait for any kind of final word that it’s a done deal.

Taking teacher pay raise down to the wire on deadline day didn’t sit well with educators.

“Our educators feel as if they’ve been fooled around teacher pay raise bills for so many years,” said Mississippi Association of Educators President Erica Jones. “This is the opportunity for our legislature to do what is right by our educators and order to move the state forward.”

A day later and the Senate is again getting praise from education advocates for unanimously passing the bill on the Senate floor.

“I would hope the House would concur in this strike all, send it to the Governor,“ said Sen Dennis DeBar. “Remove politics from the equation and take care of our teachers and students like they deserve to be taken care of.”

Here’s what he means by a “strike all.”

It’s a House bill technically, but the Senate did a “strike all” and put the language of their original teacher pay bill in its place… adding teacher assistants.

The House has two options. Agree to the Senate’s changes or send it to conference for negotiations. But Speaker Philip Gunn says only one of those is at play.

“We took up a teacher pay bill. We passed the teacher pay bills second week of the session. We passed the teacher pay bill that’s better than what they passed. I don’t understand why they haven’t sent it to the Governor two weeks ago,” said Speaker Gunn.

But it’s expected teachers and education advocates will keep putting the pressure on the House for action.

“The only reason not to send it to the governor right away is politics,” noted The Parent’s Campaign Executive Director Nancy Loome. “And our teachers deserve better than that. We are hearing from every corner of the state that if this pay raise doesn’t pass, we are going to see mass resignations of teachers and we will not have enough teachers to fill our classrooms.”

“I think they will continue to call because one part of that is that they were frustrated with the House’s action yesterday and they want the House to know that look, we expect a raise,” explained Mississippi Professional Educators Executive Director Kelly Riley. “At the Capitol, everybody seems to be concerned with is that a House bill? Is that a Senate bill? Who’s the primary author? Teachers don’t care about that. Teachers just want to be able to provide for their families, and they want to be respected as professionals and to be compensated as professionals.”

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