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No thanks to Democrats, House passes teacher pay raise
However, you wouldn't know it by reading Bobby Harrison's article

by Frank Corder
Teachers in Mississippi should be appalled at how Democrats in the state House of Representatives are using their livelihoods to score political points with low information voters and currying favor with their education task masters roaming the halls in the Capitol.  

Of course they get lots of help from their friends in the media, too.  Bobby Harrison characterized the event as "The Republican-led House passed its $188 million teacher pay package Wednesday 85-26 after beating back efforts of the Democrats to increase the amount."

Democrats like to position themselves as the supreme education advocates at the Capitol yet when presented with the opportunity to raise teacher pay with the support of the majority, they can't seem to take "yes" for an answer.

The House passed what was widely acknowledged as a symbolic teacher pay increase last session that had no real hope of getting through the entire Legislature, but this year was different. This session Speaker Philip Gunn had backed a pay raise plan that is most likely to be accomplished given the political realities at hand.  It was even spelled out for members openly on the House floor (i.e. Rep. Herb Frierson's speech).

But instead of seeing this as it is, Democrats chose to grandstand, preen for their lobbyists, offer fiscally unrealistic amendments, and ultimately vote 'no' or worse, take a pass and vote 'present.'

For over three hours Wednesday, the Mississippi House of Representatives debated the Republican led plan to raise teacher pay by $4,250 over four
years, an amount even the Daily Journal called "substantial."

The bill calls for teachers to reach 3 out of 22 professional benchmarks for those with more than five years of experience; teachers with less than five
years get the raises automatically.

As Frierson noted on the floor of the House in as raw of terms possible, the benchmarks had to be included for it to receive a credible look both in the Senate and by the Governor.  Without them, the bill would surely die and teachers would not receive a pay raise.

The total amount of the four year measure is in the neighborhood of $188 million, yet House Democrats attempted to amend the bill to provide for a
$5,000 raise to be given across the board minus any benchmarks effective July 1 of this year.  That's over $220 million in one chunk.

In all, 24 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted 'no' for the teacher pay raise. Democrats voting 'no' were:

Coleman (65th)
Evans (70th)
Evans (43rd)
Smith (27th)

Horne and Shirley were the two Republican 'no' votes.

A vote of 'Present' was essentially a 'no' vote.  Of the 9 that voted 'present' 8 are Democrats:

Brown (66th)
Evans (91st)

Massengill was the lone Republican voting 'present.'

Democratic Rep. Linda Whittington said of her 'present' vote via Twitter: "The bill passed the House. I thought it insulting to teachers.  We did not have the numbers to pass it.  I voted present."  Bless her heart, but I don't know how she characterizes a double digit percentage pay increase to teachers as insulting.

Proof that Democrats operate in such narrow terms so as to play the part, make the headlines, and seem pro-education but in all practicality cannot or will not recognize the political realities of how to get things accomplished on issues they claim to support.

This issue still has a long road legislatively this session and there are no guarantees as to what will happen in the other chamber.  But Democrats in the House are firmly on record, and as in the last couple of sessions, this is one of those votes that those that aspire to higher office will have hung around their necks.

The vote total and bill can be found here.

Posted February 6, 2014 - 8:46 am

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