House Democrats prefer Senate teacher pay plan



By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – House Democrats are urging members of their chamber to accept the teacher pay plan passed earlier this week by the Senate and to send it to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature.

In a statement, House minority leader Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, urged “like-minded Republicans to join with them and concur in the Senate plan.”

Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, who took the lead in pushing a teacher pay plan through the House earlier this session, was non-committal Friday on whether his leadership team would try to concur in the changes made to the plan in the Senate or invite negotiations to try to work out the differences.

“I haven’t looked at it yet,” Gunn said.

The Senate proposal was unveiled Monday by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Education Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, and was passed by the full Senate Wednesday without a dissenting vote. In passing the proposal, Tollison said he hoped the House would accept the Senate changes without additional negotiations.

The Senate plan provides more money quicker to the state’s approximately 30,000 teachers. Under the Senate plan, teachers would get a $1,500 raise on July 1 and a $1,000 raise in July 2015. Starting teachers would get an even bigger boost.

The House plan would provide a $500 increase on Jan. 1, followed by a $1,000 raise on July 1, 2015, if they meet benchmarks spelled out in the legislation.

House leaders say the benchmarks are designed to be easy enough for all teachers to meet while trying to appease Bryant and Reeves, who have voiced support for a performance-based system to pay teachers.

Reeves has countered that the House benchmarks are nothing more than requiring teachers to “jump through hoops” and have little to do with improving educational outcomes. The Senate plan, instead, would give teachers a potential to garner bonuses in year three of the proposal and thereafter if their schools meet certain performance levels.

The House plan calls for substantial raises of $1,350 and $1,400 in years three and four if state revenue grows by more than 3 percent as is anticipated.

Moak said House Democrats, as well as those in the Senate, advocated a $5,000 raise for teachers.

Moak said the Senate plan moves closer to the position of legislative Democrats.

“The Senate plan does recognize the need for a significant raise and doesn’t insult teachers with unnecessary and irrelevant benchmarks like joining a social club,” he said.

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