During the 2019 Mississippi Legislative Session, the Mississippi Association of Educators were talking of strikes and walkouts over a $1,500 teacher pay raise and found the notion of a $2,000 pay raise split over two years “insulting.” They called a $1,000 for assistant teachers “an appalling gesture.”
Now, it would appear, the state’s largest teacher union is celebrating an early session win over a $1,000.
MAE posted this comment on Facebook upon the filing of Senate Bill 2001:
“Before the session began, we made it clear that it was imperative educators see a show of good faith from state leaders and legislators early this session—both in the form of the immediate pay raise that many elected officials campaigned on, and in the promise of a long-term plan that will help us reach and eventually exceed the current Southeastern average. SB 2001 is an important first step in reaching those goals.”
MAE President Erica Jones tells Y’all Politics that SB 2001 is a “show of good faith” they have been looking for from legislators.
“SB 2001 coming so early in the session shows us that passing a pay raise is a priority for the Senate. This is the show of good faith we’ve been talking about and looking for from legislators and state leaders,” Jones said. “Most importantly, we know that this first $1,000 pay raise isn’t a one and done situation. This is part of a multi-year pay raise strategy that will help us meet and exceed the Southeastern average—an important part of combatting the teacher shortage crisis and ensuring every Mississippi student has a highly-qualified teacher in their classroom.”
Senate Education Committee chairman Dennis Debar (R-SD 43) and vice chairman David Blount (D-SD 29) filed SB 2001 on Monday. It increases overall teacher pay and provides for an increase to both the minimum teacher and assistant teacher starting salary.
Y’all Politics spoke with State Sen. Blount as co-author of the bill to get his thoughts on why MAE is shifting their narrative.
“We passed $1,500 last year. There’s agreement in the Senate that we want to work towards a teacher pay increase every year, not just an election year,” Sen. Blount said. “I think they understand that, that this is a first step in a four year term and we have ambitious goals for each year in this term, and I think they understand that.”
Blount says he is “very excited” about the bill’s prospects in the Senate, calling it a “good step to follow up on the teacher pay bill that we passed last year.”
“It will provide additional money to teachers for the next school year,” Blount noted and then reiterated, “We’ve got a good plan in the Senate to move forward with teacher pay for the rest of the term, as well.”
It’s conceivable that given Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann’s campaign promises of enacting teacher pay increases every year he is in office, and with the apparent bi-partisan support evident in Debar and Blount’s authorship, the bill could be passed out of committee and head to the Senate floor for debate as early as next week.
“The biggest increases would be for the lowest base pay scale, with those with one to four years of experience receiving a 3.09 percent pay hike, improving from $35,890 to $37,000 or a boost of $1,110,” Steve Wilson at the Mississippi Center for Public Policy wrote. “Using the previous pay hike as a guide ($76.9 million for $1,500), this pay hike could cost taxpayers about $51.3 million annually.”
Assistant teacher starting pay would also receive an increase of $1,000 under SB 2001.
If SB 2001 passes both chambers and becomes law, over the past 20 years the Mississippi Legislature will have increased teacher pay over $500 million, with four pay raises since 2000.
“In 2000, a $337 million plan was enacted over a six-year span. In 2014, a two-year, $100 million plan passed by the legislature increased teacher pay $1,500 in the first year and $1,000 in second,” Wilson noted.
Also of note in that same 20 year period, overall education spending in Mississippi has increased nearly $1 billion when you compare the FY 2000 state budget with the FY 2020 Legislative Budget Report.
The Legislative Budget Office reports that total state support for education in FY 2011 was $5.49 billion compared to $6.35 billion in FY 2020.
Governor Tate Reeves indicated in his inaugural address that elevating public schools means a “pay raise for every teacher,” signaling that should a fiscally responsible bill reach his desk he would likely sign it into law.
“I am committed to elevating our public schools,” Reeves said. “That means a pay raise for every teacher – and a new mission to give us more national board certified teachers per capita than any state in the nation. You will note that I did not say more than anyone in the Mid-South. I didn’t say number one in the Southeast. I said number one in the nation.”