OUR OPINION: Pay raises improve status of teachers in Mississippi

The Legislature, following the urging of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn, passed a guaranteed $2,500 teacher pay raise on Tuesday with the possibility of future special bonuses linked to the state’s first merit pay program based on schoolwide performance.

The conference report preceding Tuesday’s action was announced late Monday night.

The House had considered a $4,250 multiyear across-the-board raise, contingent on revenue growth in the latter stages. But its position was replaced by a plan initiated by Reeves and Senate Education Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, and supported, in the end, by Gunn, who had first publicly broached the idea of a teacher pay raise late last year.

Mississippi’s 30,000 teachers will receive the first installment – $1,500 – of the two-year raise beginning July 1, the start of the 2015 fiscal year. A second raise – $1,000 – will follow on July 1, 2015, the start of the 2016 budget year.

The plan also would raise starting pay to $34,390 by July 2015, placing Mississippi third in the South in that category, a substantial improvement over last.

A School Recognition Program component of the legislation will begin on July 1, 2016. Under that program, teachers and staff can receive a one-time bonus each year based on high or improving school performance.

The program would give $100 per student to schools rating “A” on the state’s A-to-F grading system, or to schools moving up a grade. Schools rated “B” would get $75 per student. Money would go to merit payments split among all teachers and employees.

The third-year merit raises, as Reeves first proposed, retain an element that bases distribution of any merit pay stipend on local-school-based committees, not decisions made solely by a principal, superintendent or other individual.

Laura Hipp, a spokeswoman for Republican Reeves, said the merit program would be about $24 million were it in place now.

The $60 million pay raise package was deemed affordable by the vast majority in the two chambers.

We regret legislative failure to substantially increase commitment to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding. A $10 million increase has been approved, but at least $250 million more is needed to reach full funding based on the MAEP formula.

  • charlie

    $2500 divided by 9 years equals $277.78 per year divided by 187 days equals $1.49 a day.