/Senate reluctantly takes House bill to ensure passage of teacher pay raise

Senate reluctantly takes House bill to ensure passage of teacher pay raise

For the second year consecutively, Mississippi News House leaders killed a Senate bill on a crucial deadline day. This forced Senate leaders to adopt a House bill that would be used to give Mississippi teachers a raise. Leaders of both chambers claimed that their bill should be used to pay the raise. On Tuesday, which was the last day of general bills being passed out of committee, leaders from both chambers played chicken over who would take the teacher pay bill from the other chamber. Dennis DeBar (R-Leakesville), Senate Education Chair, stated that there are two Senate bills on teacher pay. He held several meetings in the state about the topic. It is the Senate’s number one priority. It is the Senate’s No. 1 priority.” DeBar stated that, late Tuesday afternoon, after the House passed the bill to guarantee a teacher raise during the 2022 session, DeBar said: “The bottom line here today is that the teachers are the winners. Politics is playing up here only reduces our ability to attract educators… We must resolve this issue and move on to other matters.” House Education Chair Richard Bennett (R-Long Beach) countered that teacher pay was their priority. However, it was their first bill. Their priority was medical marijuana. “It was our very first bill that we passed and sent early to them and, quite frankly, it should be on the governor’s desk.” The Senate leaders decided to adopt the House bill instead of abandoning all teacher pay proposals. The Senate still included its language in the House bill. Nobody outside the Mississippi Capitol cares if the bill that provides the largest teacher pay increase since 2000 is a Senate or House bill. The song and dance show the level of division in the Senate as leaders fight over Speaker Philip Gunn’s tax cut, which will gradually eliminate roughly one-third of the general fund revenue over the next years. Similar song and dance was performed last session by the House leaders when they killed a Senate bill to increase the pay of teachers. The Senate had to adopt the House bill. Teachers received an average $1,000 per year increase in the 2021 legislation. Many people saw that the House tried to use the teacher’s pay plan to get Gunn’s tax cuts proposal passed in 2021. Lt. Governor. Delbert Hosemann, the Senate’s President, stated, “You need to ask the House.” Hosemann added, “Sen. DeBar reached out and I reached out and informed the House about this matter. They adjourned to go home and DeBar thanked them for their help. Sen. DeBar demonstrated excellent leadership to ensure that teachers are not pawns in another game… He has shown patience of Job.” Gunn stated that the House wanted the bill passed because “our bill” is better on a variety of factors. He claimed it gives a larger, more immediate raise. The House plan would raise the starting teacher salary from $37,000 per year to $43,125. Mississippi would be above the average starting teacher salary in the Southeastern region of $39,754 as well as the national average of $41,163. The Senate plan would raise starting pay to $40,000 and provide substantial increases every five years throughout a teacher’s career. While the Senate proposal will be implemented over two years, the House plan will be adopted in one year. The Senate plan provides a $1,000 per teacher increase for a total of $44 million over the year. The Senate plan phased the $2,000 increase in teacher assistants over the next two years. However, both plans include an increase of $2,000 per teacher assistant each year. Bennett stated that the Senate plan, which includes teacher assistants, will cost $230 million, compared to $220 millions for the House proposal. Bennett added, “I’m unwilling to pass a bill – when we’ve told educators wait until next years, wait until next – where there are millions held back that they won’t get until the next year, an election year.” “… Teachers require all the money this fiscal year. The money is available now and teachers don’t have to wait.” Both plans “restructure” teacher salaries, which determine the pay of teachers at different levels of experience and training. The House plan would offer more immediate increases, ranging from $4,000 up to $6,000. The Senate plan would offer a more immediate increase of $4,000 to $6,000. However, the average increase would be $4,800. It would also provide larger increases at every five-year period in a teacher’s career. According to several metrics, Mississippi’s teacher salary is among the lowest in the country. The Mississippi Association of Educators spent Tuesday watching the games of one-upmanship between Senate and House leaders. Antonio Castanon Luna is the executive director of Mississippi Association of Educators. He said that the membership includes 10% of the state’s classroom teachers. He stated that the pay increase will allow teachers to fight inflation and remain in the classroom. He said that it didn’t matter if the Senate or House bills were passed to increase the pay. He said, “To us it’s about students having high-quality teachers.” Kelly Riley, executive director for the Mississippi Professional Educators said that the House’s decision to kill the Senate’s two raise bills was a disappointment. We are grateful for the Senate’s leadership and statesmanship. The Senate’s actions today and the House’s lack thereof have sent a clear message about who prioritizes the state’s teachers and students.” The final teacher pay plan, which will likely include elements from both the Senate’s and House plans, will most likely be finalized by legislative leaders in the last days of session. The final plan will not be a Senate bill, but a House bill. While this is important for some at the Capitol, the final result for teachers will be whether or not they get a raise. Their pay raises were still on track for the 2022 legislative session, even after a chaotic Tuesday. Clarification 3/22/22: The story on the Senate’s proposal has been updated to reflect the most recent information from Mississippi Today. To support this important work, make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today.