Teacher pay raise possible in legislative session





Staff Writer

Among the issues lawmakers and constituents will likely see in this year’s Mississippi State Legislative Session are some with the potential to affect education in the Golden Triangle and across the state.

The SDN caught up with Sen. Angela Turner-Ford, a Democrat from West Point, and Representatives Rob Roberson, R-Starkville, Gary Chism, R-Columbus, and Cheikh Taylor, D-Starkville, to discuss any education issues that might be taken up during the session.

All four legislators said there was a high likelihood of a teacher pay raise bill during the session. Mississippi gubernatorial candidate and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and other high-ranking Mississippi Republicans have mentioned the possibility of a pay raise. All four legislators said they would support such a bill, should one come up.

“We’ve looked at some of the bills,” Roberson said. “I don’t know how they’re going to be structured, but I do know that there is a lot of support. As a matter of fact, I haven’t heard of anybody that doesn’t support the teacher pay raise right now.”

Despite voicing support for a teacher pay raise, Taylor said Democrats had been trying to get a pay raise for teachers for years. He said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Republican- authored teacher pay raise legislation similar to bills Democrats have attempted to get through in years .

“Oftentimes, we’re painted as being oppositionists, not wanting to work with leadership, things of that nature,” Taylor said. “These issues, especially teacher pay raises, state employee pay raises, things of that nature, we’re more than willing (to support). If it’s a good idea, we want to make sure it happens.”

“If it makes sense for people, It makes sense for me,” Taylor added.

Turner-Ford said even though no teacher pay raise legislation had come up yet in the Senate, she would support such a bill.

“An issue that I’ve heard from people in my district is if there’s a teacher pay raise, how that will be distributed among teachers,” Turner-Ford said.

She said it was still early in the process, and lawmakers were mostly working in committees, rather than as a whole body.

“I’m sure it’s being discussed,” Turner-Ford said. “I’m just not a party to it. I don’t serve on the education committee.”

Another issue Roberson and Chism said would likely come up relates to standardized testing. Both Republicans said they would support a bill to streamline exit exams, and possibly end the state social studies exam.

“I’m confident we’re going to do away with the social studies test, that’s not required by the federal government,” Chism said. “We may do away with some more tests. These are end-of–course tests. It is what it is, and it’s caused some people not to graduate.”

Roberson said the legislature would have to work closely with the Mississippi Department of Education on the standardized testing issue.

“I’m not real crazy about our teachers having to teach to a test, especially in a scenario where they really don’t know what’s going to be tested half the time,” Roberson said. “They’re just trying to do their best to give a well-rounded education. Sometimes I think that interferes with their ability to be a professional.”

On the higher education front, Roberson said there was talk of a bill allowing members of the Mississippi National Guard to attend Mississippi public universities tuition-free.

“Obviously, the universities need to be protected in the sense of the costs that they incur, but on the same token, I think we owe it to our soldiers,” Roberson said.

Mississippi State University currently allows National Guardsmen to attend free of tuition.

“It’s still early, Taylor said. “Not much has been done this week. Everything’s been kind of pomp and circumstance, ceremonial, but I’m looking to see what the meat of some of these issues are.”