March 5, 2014 11:36:36 AM
JACKSON -- The head of an educators' union is praising Mississippi lawmakers for moving forward with a teacher pay raise proposal, but he's asking them to do more.
Mississippi Association of Educators director Frank Yates said Tuesday that to keep up with neighboring states, Mississippi needs to pass a 5.5 percent teacher pay raise each year for the next five years.
"This is how Mississippi can retain and recruit the best, brightest, and most committed educators to ensure positive student outcomes," Yates said in a news release.
Mississippi has long had some of the lowest teacher salaries in the nation.
The Senate Education Committee advanced a plan Tuesday to give teachers a $1,500 raise this July, followed by another $1,000 a year later.
That's 5 percent for beginning teachers the first year and 3 percent the second year. In the third year, teachers would become eligible for merit raises in schools with good academic performance.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves talked about the proposal on Monday, and the Senate Education Committee inserted it Tuesday into House Bill 504, taking out a separate teacher pay raise plan that passed the House in early February. The revised bill moves to the full Senate for more debate.
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.
The Senate plan removes the 22-point checklist.
The two Republican-controlled chambers must agree on a single plan for teacher pay before anything could go to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.
"I have said from the beginning that a true merit pay system and an across-the-board raise for beginning base salary are not mutually exclusive," Bryant said in a statement Monday.
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. Mississippi had the second-lowest average teacher pay in the nation in 2013 at $41,994, above only South Dakota, according to the National Education Association.
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