February 24, 2021
MAE President Erica Jones on HB 1439
I’m sure you’ve heard about HB 1439, a bill that passed out of the House on Tuesday that would fundamentally change the way the state collects tax revenue. To say we have our reservations about HB 1439 would be an understatement. Any bill that would, if signed into law, restructure the state’s tax revenue streams so drastically deserves more than a day’s review. With MAEP already underfunded and our average teacher salary lagging behind the Southeastern average by more than $5,000, we quite literally cannot afford to let a bill sail through on the promise that everything will work out in the end. All Mississippians – educators or otherwise – deserve more time to research and understand the effects of this proposal. We should hear from reputable tax policy experts, not just from politicians, about the impact this bill would have on the state.
Beyond questions regarding this bill’s impact on tax revenue, we are troubled by the inclusion of the teacher pay raise in this bill. I wish I could say we were surprised, but we are far too familiar with public education being used as a bargaining chip and teachers’ livelihoods being treated as a political football. While it may not have been intended as a threat to educators, public education advocacy groups, or the lawmakers who will vote on this bill, it is hard not to view it as such.
In our classrooms we instruct students to look at every angle of a problem and to investigate fully. We feel that same diligence is due here, and frankly, it would be irresponsible of us not to ask questions. We’ll continue to follow this legislation closely and, in the same way we encourage our students to work together to solve a problem, we’ll be asking lawmakers and state leaders to work with all constituency groups to reach a solution that is equitable, just, and prioritizes the more than 400,000 students depending on the state’s investment in our public schools.