Area teachers, officials react to new state pay increase law

Dixie Attendance Center teacher Raquel Strong has her fourth-grade reading and social studies students working in what she likes to call a “gallery” — multiple stations she has set up around the perimeter of her classroom where they are researching famous Mississippians.

Strong is working individually with the students — a task she has been contemplating since she first got up in the morning, even before she headed to school at 7:15 a.m. — 35 minutes before classes got underway.

“I’m in my head mentally preparing,” she said. “Do I have everything I need?”

Right before school starts, she greets her students at the door and gives each one of them some attention.

“We shake their hands and ask them how their morning is,” she said. “(The day) requires a lot of mental attention — what can I do at school that’s going to help them deal better with their life?”

Strong’s taxing day — she even eats lunch with her students — is the main reason she was so happy to hear late last month that Gov. Phil Bryant had signed a bill to give K-12 teachers $2,500 raises over the next two years.

“Any raise is great,” she said. “A few years ago, they cut teachers’ pay, so this will get us back to where we need to be. Hopefully, it will grow from here and it’s not set in stone.”

The new law includes a $1,500 raise July 1 and a $1,000 raise July 1, 2015.

Hattiesburg American