SB 2770, the teacher pay raise bill, has officially been referred to conference committee. Prior to arriving in the Senate, Representatives Steve Holland, John Hines, and Orlando Paden submitted an amendment to increase the pay raise from $1000 to $4000. That raise would be split over two years and would see all certified teachers’ salaries increase by $4000. Assistant teachers would still see a $1000 pay raise.
The conference committee’s task is to address the discrepancy between the number passed by the Senate ($1000) and the House ($4000). The conference committee is comprised of members selected by the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House. They will each pick three members from their respective chambers and those selected will deliberate on the final number for this critically-needed pay raise.
Alarmingly, those deliberations will take place behind closed doors.
We have to assume that, based on previous public comments and votes, they will stack the committee with senators and representatives who will lower the $4000 substantially—potentially back down to the bill’s original $1000. We know they do not want to commit to a substantial pay raise for educators.
What now? Now we push lawmakers to stand on the side of their public school teachers and their public schools. We know it’s imperative that our educators see a meaningful teacher pay raise that will help move Mississippi closer to the Southeastern average—a critical piece in addressing the teacher shortage crisis. Mississippi’s teachers and students deserve better. We simply can’t afford to keep losing teachers to neighboring states.
Call these potential conference committee members and let them know that our educators are worthy of a serious investment.
When they tell you, “of course we’d like to pay our teachers more but we just can’t afford to,” tell them we can’t afford not to.
Tell them that, thanks to the huge corporate tax cuts passed in 2016, Mississippi will lose out on $46.5 million in revenue in 2019. And tell them that by 2028, that number will swell to $415 million per year. Be sure to mention that 78% of those corporate tax cuts are going to out-of-state corporations.
Tell them that we haven’t forgotten the way that education was left completely out of the equation in the lottery bill. And tell them that even with the amendments that were—once again—deliberated in conference committee, we still don’t have any guaranteed monies from the lottery going to education funding.
Tell them we know that FY 2019 revenue is on track to exceed the current estimate by $190 million, and that FY 2020 is predicted to exceed that number by 2.6%. Tell them we know the money to give teachers a meaningful pay raise is there—what’s lacking is the desire to do so.
Finally, tell them that we have to shift the way we think about paying teachers and education funding. It’s more than just dollars and cents: It’s about our teachers being able to teach without taking on second and third jobs. It’s about our students having highly-qualified teachers in every classroom in every school. Tell them that most of all, it’s an investment in the future of the state of Mississippi.