/Governor may veto $22 billion education budget bill over potential teacher pay cuts

Governor may veto $22 billion education budget bill over potential teacher pay cuts

Mississippi News Gov. Nonprofit Mississippi News Tate Reeves stated Wednesday in a press conference that it was “very probable” that he would veto a budget bill for Mississippi Department of Education. This state agency oversees nearly 900 public schools and 465,000 students. The deadline for him to sign it is midnight Wednesday. If he does, the Legislature will have to deal with the veto amid chaos due the fact that Speaker Philip Gunn (House) and Lieutenant Governor (Lt. Gov.) are the presiding officers. Delbert Hosemann, Senate, has tested positive for COVID-19. Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer, said Wednesday that 36 cases of coronavirus were attributed to an outbreak at Capitol. 26 of these were legislators. The rules suspending legislators from addressing any veto means that it is possible for them to return to address any veto, without the need to be called to special session by governor. Reeves said that due to the coronavirus epidemic in the Capitol, it would take at least 14 days before the Legislature could meet remotely safely. The education budget, which amounts to $2.2 billion in state funds was the last one approved by legislators before they adjourned with plans to return in the next few days to discuss the Department of Marine Resources’ final budget. The Legislature approved a budget last week despite declining state revenues due to the coronavirus. The budget, which is approximately $6 billion in size, will see most agencies absorb cuts between 3 and 5 percent in the current fiscal year. On Tuesday, the governor posted on social media that the education bill had a major problem. He claimed that the Legislature had cut teacher salaries by more than $26 millions. The school recognition program provides financial rewards for schools that improve their letter grades. The governor moved the money for this program to the main school funding program and not to the recognition program. He stated that “over 20,000 teachers would get less pay than what they earned if this budget is passed.” The program was created by the Legislature in 2014. It is a merit-based system of pay to encourage teachers and staff at high performing schools as well as those with higher letter grades. Teachers who are A-rated or have their grades increase from a F’ to a ‘D’ or a D to âC’ receive $100 per student. Schools rated ‘B’ receive $75 per student. The recognition program has received $71 million from the Legislature since 2017. According to the Department of Education, $28 million is needed to fund the program for approximately 21,000 teachers who are eligible based on their school’s grades. Reeves stated Wednesday that more than 23,000 teachers will lose their bonuses. According to Mississippi Today’s analysis, $25 million was received by nearly 21,000 teachers from 510 public schools in fiscal 2020. Governor. Tate Reeves stated that teachers would see “pay cuts of a couple thousand dollar,” but Mississippi Today’s analysis found that no teacher was receiving thousands of dollars. The Legislature issued new guidelines last year clarifying that money should only be given to eligible staff and distributed equally. It has been difficult to determine the exact number of teachers who were awarded rewards in the first two years of this program because the Mississippi Department of Education did not keep records of this information. House Education Chairman Richard Bennett (R-Long Beach) said Wednesday that legislative leaders had spoken to the governor and assured him that the program could continue without his veto or the need for lawmakers to amend the budget. “The loss of the School Recognition program deeply disturbs me as chairman of Education. Bennett stated that regardless of budgetary changes, it was and remains our intention for MDE funding this program. “We informed the Governor’s staff that legislative clarification would easily resolve this matter and that a vote was not necessary. According to the Department of Education, schools would be eligible for funds in the current fiscal year that begins July 1. This is based on their 2018-19 school year rating. This program was included in a 2014 pay increase for teachers. Then-Lt. Gov. The program was first proposed by Gray Tollison (R-Oxford), and Reeves, then-Lt. Gov. Some education advocates opposed the program, arguing that teachers would be more likely to get the additional pay if they worked in high-performing or improving districts. The guidance was sent to schools in the first two years, and it was based on the Legislature’s wishes that each school form a teacher committee. This committee would make a decision on how the money would go. The forms didn’t ask how many teachers would be receiving the money. “It was more or less…we just needed something on paper to determine how they were going disperse that cash,” Pete Smith, chief of communications at the Mississippi Department of Education, said in February to Mississippi Today. Although it was required that districts submit responses forms showing how money was distributed and the number certified staff who were recipients, some districts didn’t submit any form or stated the number certified staff in order to be eligible for the award. Reeves could veto the education budget, as he indicated. However, under a 2010 opinion of the Attorney General funding for public schools is allowed to continue as education is a constitutional mandate to the state. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today. 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