April 2, 2014 10:48:55 AM
JACKSON -- Pay raises for Mississippi public school teachers are close to becoming law.
The full House and Senate passed House Bill 504 Tuesday, sending it to Gov. Phil Bryant for his consideration.
The plan calls for teachers to get two across-the-board pay raises worth $2,500 and then be eligible for merit payments in 2016-2017.
The bill includes a $1,500 raise that would begin July 1, and a $1,000 raise that would follow in the budget year beginning July 1, 2015. Lawmakers passed a bill Monday to cover the roughly $60 million cost of the first year of the plan.
The third year would give $100 per student to schools rating "A'' on the state's A-to-F grading system, or to schools moving up a grade. Schools rated "B'' would get $75 per student. Money would go to merit payments split among all teachers and employees of a school, but administrators such as principals would be excluded.
"I am proud the Legislature has taken steps to implement the state's first merit pay program and make teacher pay more competitive to attract the best individuals to the classroom," Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement.
If the system were in place today, it would generate about $24 million in payments, said Laura Hipp, a spokeswoman for Republican Lt. Gov Tate Reeves. But it's not clear how payments would average out. How much money is generated in 2016-2017 would depend on how schools grade then. The 2016-2017 school year is the first where Mississippi school grades would depend on new multistate tests geared to the Common Core standards. Some administrators have warned scores and grades could drop sharply that year.
Many critics have said the money would encourage the best teachers to gravitate toward A-rated schools. The bill pledges to develop some sort of pay plan for "high-performing" teachers in lower-rated schools before 2016-2017, in an effort to prevent that. House Education Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon, told House members he would seek to modify the merit plan.
"We have two years to either come up with a plan or take it out," Moore said.
Talk of a teacher pay raise began before the session with House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton.
"House Republicans have been focused on providing hard-working teachers a pay raise," Gunn said.
But House and Senate negotiators basically adopted the Senate plan, turning aside a House proposal to give across-the-board raises of up to $4,250 to teachers over four years. The House adopted that position after abandoning an earlier proposal requiring teachers to meet three of 23 qualifications ranging from national board certification to civic club membership.
House and Senate negotiators agreed to the plan Monday. House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, told House members that the House was unable to get Reeves to substantially budge from the Senate plan, despite four attempts.
"I did not like this plan, Moore said. "It was either this or get no raise for our teachers."
Online: House Bill 504: http://bit.ly/1mGANr9
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