By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Mississippi teachers will get a $2,500 raise over the next two years under legislation signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Phil Bryant.
New teachers will get even larger raises under the proposal.
The average pay for a starting teacher will increase from the current level of $30,900 to $33,390 on July 1, and to $34,390 the following year.
“The real winners are the children,” said House Speaker Philip Gunn. “We hope this plan puts a good teacher in every classroom.”
Bryant, who signed the legislation at the state Capitol, said he particularly liked the fact that in year three of the new law teachers will be eligible for one-year bonuses based on school performance. But after the bill signing, Bryant acknowledged, as many legislators did when they passed the pay package during the recently completed session, that in future years a solution must be found to provide merit-based pay to good teachers in bad schools.
Bryant expressed optimism that a pilot merit pay program being carried out in districts across the state will come up with methods to provide performance-based pay to individual teachers.
Both Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Gunn, along with numerous legislators and a few educators and those associated with groups that represent educators, attended the bill signing.
“This legislation makes teacher pay more competitive to attract the best individuals to the classroom,” Reeves said.
Gunn proposed a pay raise for Mississippi’s roughly 33,000 teachers in December before the 2014 session began.
The House had passed a $5,000 proposal offered by Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, in the 2013 session, but that proposal died in the Senate. Legislative leaders in both the House and Senate said the state could not afford the pay raise.
The proposal will provide a $1,500 pay raise for the upcoming school year beginning July 1 and an additional $1,000 the following year.
And then legislation calls for teachers and faculty to be eligible for yearly bonuses, based on school performance for the school year starting in 2016.
The cost of the first year of the raise is $64.6 million.
In total, counting the costs of the pay raise, $70 million has been added to the Mississippi Adequate Education, which pays the state’s share of the basics of operating local school districts.
But even with the costs of the pay raise added to the amount provided by the state, local school districts still are receiving less funds than they got in 2008, before the recession hit, resulting in dramatic cuts to education.
In the 2008 fiscal year, the Legislature appropriated $2.257 billion to K-12 education, compared to $2.205 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.