Teacher Pay Raise to Be Hot Topic This Session

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.

Political Power Player: Rep. Brad Mayo

In our latest segment of our “Power Player’s” series, we interviewed Rep. Brad Mayo of Oxford. Rep. Mayo was one of the Republican holdouts during the charter schools debate before finally supporting the legislation.

While only serving in his first term in the state house, Brad is no newcomer to politics having previously served as an alderman in Oxford and in the Barbour administration as a special projects director. He replaced longtime Oxford legislator Noal Akins who retired in 2011 after serving two terms. I gained a great deal of respect for Brad during the charter schools debate. Although he eventually supported the legislation, Rep. Mayo was one of the few GOP members who took the input from the charter school opponents in his district seriously as it related to his vote.

Check out our Interview with Rep. Brad Mayo

1) MSPOLITICALPULSE: Why did you run for the legislature?

Rep. Mayo: My father always taught me: you can’t complain if you aren’t willing to do it to yourself. I have always believed that north Mississippi offers a valuable perspective for Mississippi – quality education, strong community involvement, and fiscal prudence. I was serving as an alderman and was encouraged to replace our retiring representative. Mississippi was at a critical juncture and I wanted to make sure that our perspective was effectively shared.

2) MSPOLITICALPULSE: What are your top 3 legislative priorities?

Rep. Mayo: I want parents to be able to go to sleep at night knowing that in the morning their children will get a quality education while the parents are working quality jobs. They can be subject to a chicken and the egg argument, but education and economic development are my top priorities. We cannot operate a good educational system nor have private sector development without a sound budget. So, developing a prudent and sustainable budget is imperative.

3) MSPOLITICALPULSE: Who is your political role model? And why?

Rep. Mayo: I don’t have one. I can only be me. I am a student of history and I admire John Adams’ integrity and intelligence, Teddy Roosevelt’s zeal, George Washington’s discipline and foresight, Winston Churchill’s confidence, and Dwight Eisenhower’s dedication to service and focus on the essentials of government. Of course, my old boss Haley Barbour taught me quite a few lessons on the practicalities of governing and team-building. The one person that I do seek to emulate is my father. He made his own way in the world, loves his family, serves his community, and always treats others with kindness. I’m blessed to have had such a father.

4) MSPOLITICALPULSE: How will you work across the aisle to gain bipartisan support for your initiatives?

Rep. Mayo: Being successful in nearly any venture is about developing and maintaining personal relationships built upon trust and mutual goals. The legislature is no different. If you work with people and don’t care about the credit, you can achieve a lot. I’m very proud to have been able to do that to improve some pieces of legislation that will greatly benefit Mississippians. I have been glad to see that others feel the same way. Acrimony makes for better media, but teamwork is thankfully alive and well.

5) MSPOLITICALPULSE: In what way(s) will you take the lead in working to bring economic development and jobs to your district?

Rep. Mayo: As an alderman, I served on the project team for the Winchester Ammunition re-location that produced 1,000 new jobs. This past year, I handled a headquarters expansion act which was immediately utilized by FNC – a tech company in my hometown. The bill led to a large number of very high-paying jobs as the company expands into international markets. I am working with elected and economic development officials at home and in Jackson to continue to expand and diversify Lafayette County’s economy. We’ll see what shakes out.

6) MSPOLITICALPULSE: Were you satisfied with this past legislative session?

Rep. Mayo: While it wasn’t perfect, I was satisfied with the session. Because of what we did this past session, hundreds of thousands of children in Mississippi will receive a better education than under the previous framework. Those in communities that fail to provide a quality education will now have a chance to get one. Those struggling to read will now receive more intensive instruction. I am also proud that the IHL appropriation is now more equitable – which will lead to about $3 million more for Ole Miss this year. I was disappointed that a bill I wrote that would evaluate our tax incentive system was hung up for technical implementation reasons. I look forward to working with the appropriate agencies to pass it next session.

Also, if revenues continue their slow but steady ascent, I will push for most of it to be allocated for educational funding. An upward economic cycle is the best time to re-shape the budget to fit our priorities – as opposed to the triage of the past 5 or so years.

7) MSPOLITICALPULSE: What are two things that are special about District 12 that you thing people should know?

Rep. Mayo: District 12 is evolving rapidly. My children are growing up in a much different place than the sleepy town of my youth. After decades of nearly no population growth, we have almost doubled in the past 20 years. That growth is among retirees and people moving to work in manufacturing, health care, technology, finance, hospitality, and for a number of state agencies located here. They are all attracted by the same thing: quality of life and an emphasis on education.

That bears out a second unique characteristic of my district – its diversity. District 12 still has the same people of my youth – people that you would find in any small town district in the state. They are typical north Mississippi residents – understated; hard-working; self-reliant; quick to volunteer; and for the most part socially conservative. Meanwhile, we have a developing Oxford that includes northern and western retirees, a number of NFL players, Hollywood transplants, and young Mississippi families seeking quality jobs and schools. It can be boiled down to a slightly oversimplified “new Oxford” and “old Oxford” – and they can have different expectations of what they want which can play out in politics.

Rep. Mayo is a Republican member of the house and currently sits on the education, fees and salaries of public officers, insurance, medicaid, public health and human services, universities and colleges and ways and means committees. He and his wife, Kathleen, reside in Oxford with their 3 children.