By Chris Kieffer
VERONA – The head of a state organization for educators wants teachers to receive a larger pay raise.
Joyce Helmick, president of the Mississippi Association of Educators, said Monday she would like to see at least another $2,500 added to teachers’ base pay, on top of the $2,500 approved by state lawmakers last year.
Helmick made the remarks in an interview before reading to students at Verona Elementary School. She is touring about a dozen schools throughout the state to promote MAE’s second “Be a Champion” reading contest.
The Legislature voted in its 2014 session to phase in teacher pay raises, with educators receiving $1,500 this year and another $1,000 next year. That will increase starting pay in the state to $34,390 next July. Ultimately, MAE’s goal is to phase in a 5.5 percent annual increase over five years to reach $40,386 by 2019.
That total would make Mississippi more competitive with other states and would keep teaching starting salaries more competitive with other professions, said Helmick, who also pushed for raises last year.
“We are trying to get our teachers to the Southeastern average for starting teachers because we don’t want to lose our teachers to other states and to other occupations,” Helmick said.
The plan passed this year also calls for bonuses for teachers based on a school’s student performance, beginning in 2016. Helmick said she opposes using student test scores to evaluate teachers. Testing should be used to determine students’ needs, she said, not teachers’ pay.
“I want to see the toxic testing removed,” Helmick said. “I don’t want to see teachers paid based on student test scores.”
MAE has roughly 8,000 members in a state with about 34,000 teachers, although its members also include administrators, support staff and other educators. It offers professional training, legislative advocacy and legal services.
It also hosts the “Be a Champion” contest, which will give students an opportunity to win tickets to the Egg Bowl. It is open to kindergarten to eighth-grade public-school students, and teachers can register on MAE’s website, www.maetoday.nea.org.
“What we’re doing with the competition is giving teachers another vehicle to help students read for enjoyment,” Helmick said.
Students who read six grade-appropriate books will be entered into a drawing for tickets to the Nov. 29 football game between the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University. Participants will select a team, and one winner will be chosen to represent both Ole Miss and MSU with three tickets to the game and a chance to visit the field during pre-game activities. Other prizes will be awarded to four students for each team.
The names of four participating teachers will be drawn to each receive $500 for their classrooms. Also, teachers who decorate their rooms for the contest can submit photos for a chance to win one of four $250 prizes for their classrooms.
Last year, 15,000 students, 2,000 educators and 117 school districts participated.