That Bryant would embrace merit pay for teachers is not surprising. When he was a freshman state representative from Rankin County in 1996, the Democratic leadership in state government — House Speaker Tim Ford, Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Charlie Capps — had an ambitious $52 million teacher pay hike plan on the agenda as the 1997 session took shape.
One of the mightiest voices opposing that plan was then-Gov. Kirk Fordice.
Fordice was a proponent of merit pay for teachers, writing in a 1997 veto message: “Philosophically, I do not believe that spending more money on public education will automatically result in higher student test scores. Even the most ardent promoters of increased education funding must admit that a district’s funding level is only one factor that influences the success of its students.”
Fordice was Phil Bryant’s Republican political godfather.
The merit pay concept is one that’s been a favorite of legislative conservatives for more than 20 years in Mississippi politics. Now, Republicans control both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office.
Bryant’s proposed education reforms line up with reforms proposed by other GOP governors across the country.