By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Differing House and Senate teacher pay proposals have at least one thing in common – both place an emphasis on trying to recruit top college students to the teaching profession.
The House proposal, which was passed by that chamber earlier in the session, does so by exempting new instructors for their first five years of teaching from having to meet the benchmarks that more experienced teachers must achieve to qualify for the pay raise.
The proposal offered by Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves would significantly increase starting pay for teachers.
The proposal unveiled by Reeves and Tollison on Monday was passed with little debate Tuesday in the Education Committee. It will be considered in the coming week before the full Senate, and, if passed there as expected, the House will have to accept the Senate version or invite a conference where key legislators will try to work out the differences.
In the Tollison/Reeves 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.
There are two components of the pay raise for starting teachers. The first is that beginning teachers would get the same pay raise all teachers will receive – $1,500 on July 1, followed by the $1,000 increase the following July.
The second component is that the legislation pays a first-year teacher as a third-year teacher currently is paid. Under current law, teachers automatically receive what is called “a step” raise of $495 each year based on experience. The Tollison/Reeves proposal would give starting teachers their first two years of step raises immediately.
New teachers in Mississippi would earn more than those in Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia under the plan in an effort to recruit “the best and brightest” to the teaching profession, Reeves said.
Madi Martin, a first-year teacher at Lawndale Elementary in Tupelo, would benefit from the emphasis on new teachers in the Senate bill. She would receive the $1,500 pay raise on July 1, plus an extra $495 because she would receive a year of her existing step pay raise early.
Martin said she was excited upon hearing the plan, but added, “I don’t think you go into teaching for the money, but I don’t think it would discourage more first-year teachers.”
Martin also could be in line for an additional pay bump under the Senate plan if Lawndale Elementary maintains its “A” rating. In the third year, the School Recognition Program kicks in where A-rated schools get an additional $100 for each student, B schools get an additional $75 per student and other schools receive an additional $100 per student by improving its grade rate – such as a F to a D or D to C.
Each school will select a committee to determine how to spend those funds. It can, for instance, be divided equally among the school staff or spent on new classroom instruction equipment.
“Teachers know who is successful at the head of the classroom and who gets results from students,” Reeves said. “The School Recognition Program encourages teachers to pull together and help one another to improve academic performance at all grades and raise a school’s overall performance.”
The performance pay would be from year to year. The teachers in A and B schools would lose the additional pay if their school performance level dropped, and the same would happen if lower-performing schools did not continue to increase in performance. For instance, a school that increased from a D to C and received the additional pay one year would not get it the next year if the school remained a C.
Daily Journal reporter Chris Kieffer contributed to this report.