By: Mike Biggs
House Speaker Phillip Gunn shocked the political establishment a couple of weeks ago when he publically stated that he supported giving a pay raise to Mississippi teachers during this legislative session. “I would like to look at a teacher pay raise. That is a House position. We see the need and importance of that, said Gunn.” Gunn has served several years as a school board member for the Clinton Public Schools.
The move might put the House leader at odds with fellow Republicans Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, both of whom have said they more favor moving to a merit-pay system of raises for teachers instead of across the board. Rep. Tom Miles, a Democrat from Morton takes issue with the notion of a merit pay proposal. “I hear the argument about Merit Pay a lot. I personally could support Merit Pay if it was done fairly in away to reward teachers, but first we need to give our teachers Adequate. We aren’t even paying the teachers adequately so it’s really hard to discuss paying them on Merits if they aren’t paid adequately.”
While many specifics are not yet known, momentum has certainly been building around the idea. The Mississippi Association of Educators and other education advocates are pushing for a teacher pay raise for 2014 and several legislators are taking a position as well. Rep. Karl Gibbs (D) – West Point says he “fully supports pay raises for our teachers”.
If the recent teacher pay raises in neighboring state’s can provide a glimpse of how the Mississippi legislature may act, then look for the Louisiana model to be most likely. Gov. Bobby Jindal tasked his Republican leadership with finding room in the budget to include funds for an across the board pay hike for teachers. Legislative leaders shifted some $70 million dollars into the education budget mandating that half of that went specifically to teacher pay increases.
Republicans have long insisted that any talk of pay increases remain in line with continued revenue growth. “Mississippi’s leadership, Republican & Democrat, recognizes that putting more money in the classroom is imperative to achieving the long-term goal of developing an enviable educational system, say’s Rep. Brad Mayo, a Republican from Oxford. He went on to say “Revenues are finally getting to a point where we can prudently discuss pay raises and fully-funding the classroom supply fund.”
A grassroots group called Pay Raises for Mississippi Teachers launched it’s facebook page yesterday morning and in a 24 hour time period has over 7,000 likes. That translates into a lot of advocates who will be pushing the legislature finally give our teachers a much deserved pay increase. Mississippi teachers are among the lowest-paid in the nation, and they have not had an across-the-board raise since 2007.