By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – The full House could vote as early as today on a teacher pay raise bill.
“I think we might try to move it up,” said Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton. “I would like to.”
On Tuesday, a key deadline day to pass legislation out of the committee in the chamber where it originated, the House Appropriations Committee passed the proposal that could provide teachers a $4,250 pay raise over a four-year period.
The bill, a key priority for the House Republican leadership, cleared the Education Committee on Monday. The double-referred bill also had to pass the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday or it would have died.
Now that it has passed both committees, Gunn said he would like to bring it up on the House floor as quickly as possible. He indicated the leadership has the option to move the legislation up on the calendar so that it would receive quicker consideration.
The 57 House Democrats could block consideration of the proposal for at least a day if they want.
Whether they will was not clear Tuesday. But what is clear is that Democrats are not enamored with the legislation.
“I think it is an insult to teachers,” said Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson. Brown said the amount of money in the legislation is not enough since teachers are having to pay more for their health insurance and their retirement than they did seven years ago when the last teacher pay raise was approved by the Legislature.
In addition, Brown objected to the benchmarks teachers must achieve. In order to get the raise, a teacher with more than five years of experience must meet three of 22 benchmarks that are as varied as being approved for a raise by the principal, to having a good attendance record, to obtaining an advanced degree.
“These benchmarks are easily achievable and can be attained by any teacher,” Gunn said Monday at a state Capitol news conference where the plan was unveiled. Gunn said the benchmarks indicate “we are investing in veteran teachers who have proven themselves to be dedicated in their jobs and to our children.”
The raise would begin in January with a $500 bump. In July, they would receive an additional $1,000. Then the following two years they would receive increases of $1,350 and $1,400 if state revenue grew by more than 3 percent. Gunn estimated the cost at $180 million over the four years.
Democrats indicated they will try to amend the proposal when it comes up for debate on the House floor, whether today or at a later date.