By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Both House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides in the Senate, have eschewed individually based teacher merit pay plans.
Both Republican presiding officers have been in the forefront this year touting teacher pay proposals. Instead of a merit pay proposal, Gunn has proposed requiring veteran teachers to obtain what most believe would be easy-to-reach benchmarks to qualify for the raise. And Gunn said he is not wedded to the benchmarks, but only included them as a method to appease Gov. Phil Bryant, who said last year all future teacher pay raises should be tied to merit.
Reeves is proposing across-the-board pay raises for the next two years, followed by a proposal where teachers could receive bonuses for school performance.
In the meantime, there are three pilot performance pay programs currently underway in the state. The 2013 Legislature, at the behest of Bryant, authorized a pilot program in four districts. A program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Program is doing a merit pay program in seven Mississippi districts and the Appalachian Regional Commission, which includes most of Northeast Mississippi, is conducting one in three districts, including Amory.
“If they come up with a teacher merit pay program that makes sense, we will certainly look at it,” Reeves said.
According to the governor’s office, the pilot school districts are compiling data that should be complete by the end of the current school year.
“At that point, districts will use the information to implement the merit pay plans they have developed and pay the educators who have met the agreed upon objectives. In some districts, participants can receive a merit payment of up to $5,000,” according to information from Bryant’s office.
Bryant is asking the 2014 Legislature for $1.5 million to continue the pilot program.