By: Mike Biggs
If there was ever any doubt that support for teacher pay raises in Mississippi had waned, that has been shattered by a renewed grassroots effort to ensure legislators make pay increases for teachers a top priority during the 2014 session. Pay Raise for Mississippi Teachers is a group that has went viral on social media networks and in 4 days nearly 26,000 supporters have joined the group including nearly a dozen legislators. Several thousand members , both local and outside of the state, have agreed to contact their legislators, rally at the capitol and help contact and recruit more supporters.
Mississippi Teachers have gone six years without receiving a pay raise from the state but that may change soon. In a rare instance of bipartisan agreement, House Democratic leader Bobby Moak and Republican Speaker Phillip Gunn agree that teacher pay raises are long overdue. House Democrats are nearly unanimous in their push to not only see pay raises for teachers but for state employees as well. Leader Bobby Moak said “While on the topic of salaries, he said teachers aren’t the only ones in the state that need a raise. “State employees have also been without a long time for any sort of pay increase,” added Moak. “Those people work for us and it’s a shame we don’t pay a living wage for our folks.”
Several House Republicans, including Speaker Phillip Gunn, have at least warmed up to the idea of possibly supporting a pay increase for teachers but a pay raise for state employees may be dead on arrival in the Republican controlled senate. At least one Republican seemed willing to consider a pay raise for state employees if the revenues permitted. “I would like to see all state employees receive a raise. But we must have enough funds to sustain the raises. I feel the stability of the state finances must be sustained. If the funds are there, I would be in favor”, said Rep. Randy Boyd- R- Mantachie.
As with the debate and subsequent votes on the charter schools legislation, several of the largest school districts in Mississippi are represented by Republican legislators who have to answer to very vocal teacher lobbies and school boards. Efforts like that of Pay Raise for Mississippi Teachers will be most effective in organizing teachers and supporters in areas like Desoto County, Oxford, Gulfport/Biloxi and Meridian. Pay raises for teachers is likely going to happen this year but raises for state employees may be another story.