Last week the Mississippi House of Representatives passed a $4,250 teacher pay raise spread over four years, representing a double digit percentage raise for the average educator. Most hardworking Mississippians would welcome such an opportunity but the education lobby is so wrapped up in themselves that they often miss the harsh realities most citizens in our great state face every day.
House Republicans championed the measure as practical given the increased likelihood of passing the Senate. While Senate passage is by no means a guarantee, having a “merit pay lite” version gives it a substantially higher chance than just across the board pay raises, which was Speaker Philip Gunn’s point to holding his caucus together. Meanwhile, Democrats wanted a more immediate raise without the included benchmarks, fully knowing such a move would kill the bill in both chambers.
Based on the spin that resulted from the debate, it seems all Democrats wanted was what they got: a voice vote of Republicans saying “no” to a single $5,000 raise this year, mere political theater without results, and unfortunately teachers blindly bought their antics.
If you want to see the propaganda for yourself visit what appears to be a doctored Facebook page solely meant to stir pro-Democrat sentiment entitled “Pay Raise for Mississippi Teachers.”
But what educators are missing is the new reality in Mississippi politics, that of Republican leadership who actually want and expect results while operating within reasonable fiscal constraints. The days of the spend now, pray later legislative appropriation has ended.
Oh, teachers and public education supporters say they want politics out of education, however that isn’t reality; public education is a political animal by nature. It is funded by taxpayers, answers to taxpayers, and operates under the political processes of government.
Most Mississippians are hired knowing their rate of pay with no promise of a pay raise (just like teachers), may or may not receive health benefits or retirement, may only be given a week or two of vacation each year, if that, and if they miss time they could be fired, yet they go to work to provide for their families without the job security, lobbyists, and political pandering teachers enjoy.
The idea that all teachers deserve more across the board without the expectation for more results is a slap in the face to the good educators out there as well as every other Mississippian who works just as hard in their jobs without the same benefits and protections.
If the education lobby would simply stick to the argument that teacher pay in Mississippi isn’t on pace with regional and national averages minus the dramatized flare and overhyped politicization for partisan gain most Mississippians would likely follow that logic and find common ground.
But if they keep up the spin, stay connected at the hip with Democrats, propagate such divisive rhetoric, and continue to want more and more with little reputable results, it will be a hard sell with the average Mississippian.