Education committee members discuss teacher pay raise

By: 
CHARLIE BENTON
Staff Writer

On Thursday, the Mississippi House of Representatives Education Committee voted in favor of a teacher pay raise bill.

In its current form, House Bill 1349 would increase the starting pay for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree from $34,390 to $35,390 by 2020, using two $500 increases. The bill would also increase teacher’s assistant pay from $12,500 to $13,500.

Raising teacher pay has been named a priority for the ongoing legislative session by Lieutenant Governor and current Republican gubernatorial candidate Tate Reeves and other senior Mississippi Republicans. Legislators on both sides of the aisle have voiced their support.

Starkville Republican state Rep. Rob Roberson, who serves as vice chair of the House Education Committee, said the bill passed was a rough draft. He said the final version would likely provide a more substantial raise than the $1,000 laid out in the current version.

“Basically that bill is a vehicle to make certain that we have the ability to fund a pay raise,” Roberson said. “It’s a very rough draft of what will actually be done. Honestly, I’ve heard different numbers. The bill itself has $1,000 over the course of two years in one part of it, then it talks about $2,000 over the course of the next two years.”

Columbus Republican Gary Chism, who also sits on the House education committee said he expected a more substantial amount by the time the bill made it to the floor. He also said the committee was having to think about state employees other than teachers.

“That’s going to be the first shot,” Chism said. “I think there’s going to be some more. I really think it’ll wind up being more than this when it’s all said and done, but we are considering doing pay raises for state employees, so it might hamper our efforts to get more to teachers to have to do all state employees. This is a good start.”

Roberson said the bill would have to go through the House Appropriations Committee before the entire House voted for it.

“From my perspective, I look at it kind of as a cost of living adjustment,” Roberson said. “It’s technically a raise, but I haven’t been crowing about it being a full-blown raise, just because I don’t want to suggest to my teachers as the solution that they’ve been looking for.”

Roberson also said many state employees other than teachers could use a pay raise, and voiced disappointment that the house had waited until an election year to pursue pay raises.

“I would have preferred to have had this discussion last year, but you have to take the cards you’re dealt sometimes,” Roberson said.

He said Education Committee Chair Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, was clear that the bill in its current form was a vehicle to keep the discussion of a pay raise going as the session continues.

“I want to make certain that our teachers know how much we appreciate them,” Roberson said.

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