Wednesday morning the Senate unanimously passed the Teacher Pay Raise bill, SB 2001, authored by Chairman of the Committee Sen. Dennis DeBar (R-SD 43). The vote was followed by a standing ovation by members.

“All members came together today in an effort to continue to show our public educators they have our support and, most importantly, our respect,” Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann said.

A few Senators spoke on the bill before passage including Sen. D. Simmons who thanked Chairman DeBar for his work on the bill. He told members that in his conversations with multiple education organizations, they were all in favor of the legislation and while they may not be exactly where they want to be on raises for teachers, it is a good first step for this administration.

Sen. Chad McMahan stood to clarify that the number of teachers provided by the Mississippi Department of Education are correct, in order to ensure that all teacher will receive a raise. This speaks to the mishap on improper coding of some teachers after the pay raise of 2019.

The bill passed the Senate Appropriations committee on Tuesday and after the passage on the Senate Floor it will head to the House and begin the committee process there.

The bill appropriates $1,000 across the board to teachers in 2020, with $1,100 going to Single A teachers in order to reach a standard base salary of $37,000. DeBar said $37,000 may not seem like a lot of money but it is for someone fresh out of school going into the workforce as a teacher.

All members of the Senate moved to have their names added as co-authors to the bill.

Currently, Mississippi’s average teacher pay of $45,000 is $5,000 behind the Southeastern average of $50,000.

DeBar told the committee the raise will amount to roughly $52 million and cover 41,000 teachers and teacher’s assistants.

“We are going to be looking at other states to see where the pay scales are and how they come up with funding for teachers and compare it to ours,” DeBar said.  “We want to come up with the best plan that we can so we can have that multiyear raise.”

The Chairman said this is the initial step in what he hopes to see as a reoccurring raise. However, there are other employees and departments that need to be considered for raises, including corrections and other state employees.

Senators asked the Chairman if there was any doubt that the Mississippi Department of Education had the correct number of teachers and coding to correlate with the raise. These questions seem to be a direct response to the incorrect numbers MDE had on file for the 2019 raise, which left lawmakers about $18 million short last session.

A deficit bill was passed at the start of the 2020 Session to correct that oversight.

“I thought it was important to start off with the teacher pay raise. Mississippi is going to be challenged in our corrections, mental health. There is litigation going on that is going to be a challenge economically for our state as well,” said Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann. He said these steps should bring teachers pay up to a level in which they do not have to make a decision as to whether or not they will teach for economic reasons.

This year is also the year in which lawmakers will have to decide whether or not to renew the Education Scholarship Program. Hosemann said he will leave it up to his chairmen to review that program. He said he anticipates expanding education dollars for only things that are being properly utilized.

“If we have a school that cannot provide for an autistic child we’re going to send them to another public school that can,” the Lt. Governor said.  “And if we can’t find a public school that can we will find a way to get that child. We are not putting them at the back of the bus.”