House votes for teacher pay raises

February 12, 2013 11:33:27 AM

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JACKSON -- The Mississippi House voted Monday to give every teacher a $5,000 pay raise starting July 1, but educators shouldn't plan on that extra cash because the proposal has zero chance of surviving. 

 

"We don't have the money," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson said after the vote. 

 

The pay raise proposal came through an amendment to House Bill 890, which is meant to strengthen the teaching of reading in kindergarten through third grade. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant calls the bill "Education Works." In its original form, the bill included a limited program for merit pay: Teachers in four districts, initially, could receive higher salaries if their students show significant academic improvement. 

 

Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said Mississippi has some of the lowest teacher pay in the nation, at about $41,000 a year. He said a $5,000 across-the-board pay raise would be a good way to attract and retain good teachers. 

 

Holland's pay raise amendment originally passed 63-47. Several minutes later, the total changed to 64-46 when Republican Rep. Nolan Mettetal of Sardis changed his vote from "no" to "yes." Mettetal's move brought a loud moan from fellow lawmakers. The pay raise proposal is on track to die, but it's the kind of vote that teachers' groups could point out when lawmakers seek re-election in 2015. 

 

Frierson, R-Poplarville, said a $5,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers would cost about $170 million. The expense hasn't been included in early drafts of the overall $5.5 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. 

 

A separate bill that passed the House on Monday, House Bill 955, also dealt with strengthening reading lessons in early grades -- but it did not include a teacher pay raise proposal. 

 

Bryant proposes spending about $15 million to hire literacy coaches to help teachers strengthen reading lessons in kindergarten through third grade. He has said children who can't read at grade level by the end of third grade should not be promoted to the fourth. Instead, they would be held back and given more intensive instruction.