Late today, Monday March 11 the Mississippi House of Representatives voted on a teacher pay raise bill. The bill had been sent to the House from the Senate with a $1000 one-time bonus for teachers and a one-time bonus for teacher’s assistance. The Chairman of the House Education Committee presented the bill to the House and stated very plainly that once the legislature got into the appropriations meetings that he had no idea what the final teacher pay raise might be if any. He said he “hoped” it would be more than the $1000 but he could not say for sure.
The bill was then amended by Rep. Holland of Lee County to include a $4000 increase phased in over two years. The amendment passed and the bill passed. I voted against the amendment and against the bill. I hope you will continue reading so you will understand why I voted No.
First, I voted no because I do not believe the state should continue to raise the pay counties pay their teachers. What most people don’t understand is that the state of Mississippi only sets a minimum teacher pay. The state does not decide what any school district pays their teachers. The state should not spend your local tax dollars for you, that is a decision you and your local elected officials should make.
I believe the local communities through their school board and superintendent are best equipped to decide what to pay their teachers. If the local community believes they should pay their teachers more then they need to let their local school officials know its important to them. Holmes County is considering a local tax increase so they can afford to give their teachers a $5000/year raise. If the citizens agree then the tax increase will take place and their teachers will get the raise. If the citizens do not agree then the local officials trying to raise taxes will lose in the next election. This is how government is suppose to work.
I believe in local control and local decisions. What to pay the teachers in your school district is your decision not that of some state official who knows nothing about your local school. What is happening, is the state continues to increase the amount of money your school district must pay with zero thought or concern if you can afford the increase. If your community does not agree with the pay raise and the increase taxes who do you vote out? Your local school board? Your supervisors? or some state official? Government decisions are best made closest to the people not in Jackson.
Average Yearly Income Data for Mississippi
State Employee: $38,000
Public School Teacher: $43,000
Second, the state simply can not afford a pay raise for teachers. Teachers have had several pay raises within the past few years while other state employees have not. There has not been an increase in pay for all other employees in over 10 years. So before we increase teacher pay, we must increase pay for prison guards, highway construction workers, and child protection workers. Maybe teachers need more pay but it is time to discuss other state employees before we address teacher pay.
Third and maybe the most important, Teachers need to stop demanding more pay and start demanding we secure their retirement. The Public Employees Retirement system is quickly heading for a disaster. If we don’t do something, soon, teachers are going to be left without a retirement. As someone who has begun thinking about retirement and making plans, I can assure you a secure retirement is way more valuable that a few extra dollars in my pay check (by the way I am not depending on any state retirement). Any extra money the state may have this year because of the improving economy should be put into shoring up the state retirement system.
I don’t begrudge anyone being paid well, but as someone responsible for looking after your money and the future of our state, I believe this election year pandering is the wrong decisions.