House panel may tackle teacher pay this week



By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – The size of the pay raise the House leadership hopes to move through the 2014 legislative session could be revealed as early as Wednesday.

That revelation will come when an amendment is offered to a bill filed by House Education Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon, that currently has language allowing a pay raise for teachers but does not provide an amount.

Moore said late Monday he could try to amend the bill in his committee as early as Wednesday to reveal the size of the raise supported by him and presumably the rest of the House leadership.

“I am waiting for Herb (House Appropriations Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville) to tell me what we can afford,” Moore said. Whatever the size of the pay raise passed by Moore’s committee also will have to be approved by the Appropriations Committee.

The two committees have until next Tuesday to pass the legislation and move it to the floor of the House. Technically, the bill could be passed out of the two committees as is and the size of the pay raise added later in the session.

But Moore said Monday that is not the plan.

“We plan to take up an amount in committee,” he said.

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, has voiced strong support for a teacher pay raise, but has indicated the size of the increase might not be revealed until late in the session when legislators have a better idea of how much money is available. He has even left himself some wiggle room, saying money might not be available for a pay raise this year.

But Moore, one of Gunn’s key committee chairmen, has indicated that at least a starting point for the leadership position on a teacher pay raise will be revealed this week.

The state’s more than 30,000 teachers have not had a pay raise since 2007. Last year, Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, was successful in amending a bill on the House floor to provide teachers a $5,000 raise. But the proposal died later in the session in part because the leadership said the state could not afford it.

In addition, Gov. Phil Bryant has said that he supports merit pay increases for teachers instead of across-the-board raises. But after his State of the State speech last week Bryant indicated that he would consider an across-the-board raise this year.