February 1, 2019 9:58:06 AM
This is one of those years the Mississippi Legislature pretends to care about all sorts of things they've spent the previous three years hacking to pieces.
That's right. It's an election year and the people we send to Jackson would very much like to return to Jackson so they can continue their tomfoolery and eat at nice restaurants on lobbyists' dimes for another four years.
It is for that reason that legislators avoid any big issues that might divide voters and jeopardize that return trip to Jackson.
Instead, they spend most of their time burnishing their image with legislation intended to appease the folks back home.
It also means creating the illusion that they give a damn about public education.
You will find no better - and no worse - example of this than House Bill 1349, which passed through the House Education Committee (Rob Roberson, Starkville is co-chair) on Thursday.
HB1349, authored by Rep. Charles Busby of Pascagoula, was presented as "The Mississippi Great Teacher Act of 2019."
It's about time we all recognized how great our teachers are, right?
After all, teachers are becoming a rare commodity in our state. In 2018, there were 2,120 openings for teachers in the state at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. It's the strangest thing, really. Nobody can figure out why people don't want to be teachers in Mississippi.
Who wouldn't want to be under-paid, under-appreciated and subject to the whims and vagaries of a Legislature that is forever meddling in curriculum, accountability measures and school funding?
But every four years, teachers are loved, cherished and rewarded by our Legislature and this is one of those wonderful years.
Yes, the legislators have heard the desperate cries of our teachers and, by gum, they are determined to do something about it.
That's what The Mississippi Great Teacher Act of 2019 is all about - recognizing the hard work and dedication of our state's teachers in a meaningful way.
Based on the title alone, you might expect all sorts of glorious provisions in the Mississippi Great Teacher Act of 2019.
Well, hold on to your seats, folks. If this wonderful legislation passes - as it surely will - teachers will be getting a pay raise, a whopping $1,000 bump.
That's truly tears-of-joy money, so lavish that the Legislature will have to phase in over two years -- $500 for each of the next two years. That's a whopping $9.67 per week raise each year. When you account for taxes, our teachers will make an extra buck a day, whether they deserve it or not. It's Ramen noodles for everybody! Happy Days Are Here Again!
I know what most of you are thinking: Isn't this reckless? A whole buck a day? Won't some teachers be corrupted by that kind of money? Money is the root of all evil, after all.
The legislators tell us it's a risk they are prepared to make.
After all, legislators get $144 in per diem and just look at the bang-up job they're doing.
Perhaps our teachers will only be 144th less corrupted than they are. We can only hope.
After The Mississippi Great Teacher Act of 2019 sails through the Legislature with little to no opposition (only a fool would vote against a teacher pay-raise, after all) and the legislators return home in April, they will turn their attention to getting re-elected in November.
No doubt, they will be sure to tell the folks back home that they voted for a teacher pay raise.
When they do, be sure to tell them how much you appreciate it.
Then prove just how much you appreciate it in the voting booth.
They certainly deserve it.
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