March 4, 2014 9:58:32 AM
JACKSON -- The Mississippi Senate will consider a teacher pay raise plan that's different from a proposal already passed by the House.
The Senate plan deletes a list of things teachers would have to accomplish to qualify for a bigger paycheck. Under the House plan, experienced teachers would have to fulfill at least three items on a 22-point list, such as earning national certification or serving on a local civic club committee
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Republican leader of the Senate, unveiled his teacher pay raise plan Monday, saying it would be considered Tuesday by the Senate Education Committee. Mississippi has long had some of the lowest teacher salaries in the nation.
Reeves proposes giving each teacher a $1,500 raise this July and another $1,000 in July 2015. The third year of the plan offers a merit pay raise based on schools' academic showing.
"Our goal is to incentivize strong performance," Reeves said.
Mississippi gives schools grades, like a report card. Reeves said that under his plan, teachers in schools that maintain an A or B from one year to the next would be eligible for merit pay, as would teachers in schools that move up a letter grade from year to year. Each school meeting those performance standards would receive $100 per student, and administrators would decide how to divide the money among teachers.
The two Republican-controlled chambers must agree on a single plan for teacher pay before anything could go to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.
Mississippi lawmakers last increased teachers' base pay during the 2007 election-year session, although teachers since then have received built-in "step" increases based on their experience and academic degrees.
The House proposal would increase teacher pay $4,250 over four years, but experienced teachers would have to meet certain requirements to collect the full amount. Teachers would receive $1,500 spread over the first two years. Then, if state revenue continues to grow at least 3 percent a year, they would get a projected raise of $2,750 over the third and fourth years of the plan. Those in their first five years of teaching would receive the raises automatically. Teachers with more experience would have to meet three of 22 criteria, ranging from earning certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to joining a civic club.
Janis Isringhaus of Gautier, who has taught for more than 25 years and is now a counselor at the Moss Point vocational-technical center, said Moss Point lost a good English teacher in the fall because he was offered $15,000 more a year to work full-time as an apartment manager.
"It was just an awful thing," Isringhaus said of the teacher's loss to the school district.
Reeves is chairman of the 14-member Joint Legislative Budget Committee, which makes broad recommendations about how the state should spend tax dollars. He said Monday that February tax collections were relatively strong, so lawmakers might consider setting a new, larger revenue estimate for the coming year. The estimate is experts' best guess of how much money the state could collect, based on economic performance. An increase would make more money available for lawmakers as they enter the final weeks of writing a roughly $6 billion budget for fiscal year 2015, which begins July 1.
More money would ease the way for a teacher pay raise, among other things. All 122 House members and 52 senators will vote on detailed spending plans by early April, then Bryant would decide whether to sign off on the budget.