If money talks, Mississippi teachers say their checks have been silent for several years. Now, a pay increase could be coming.
Speaker Philip Gunn said, "Putting money in the classroom is where we think the rubber hits the road."
The problem is, some Mississippi teachers are hitting the road due to the lack of money.
"If we're going to increase the quality of the performance of our children, we've got to make sure they've got good teachers. So we do want to encourage the best and the brightest to go into the field of education. Getting our base salaries up is a starting point for that," explained Gunn.
2007 is the last time teachers got an across-the-board raise. Meanwhile, Frank Yates at the Mississippi Association of Educators has watched as our neighboring states keep bumping wages up. He believes it's a contributing factor to Mississippi's teacher shortage.
"If you can go 20 miles a day, even 40 miles a day to another state and you can earn 5,000-8,000 than you can in Mississippi, at some point you're more likely to take that leap," described Yates who serves as the association's executive director.
Yates says those teachers lose hope when they don't see any new money coming from the state year after year.
"It's not so much attractive as it is survival," Yates said.
Governor Bryant has been a strong supporter of merit-based pay since taking office. It's being used in a few districts as part of a pilot program. Speaker Gunn isn't opposed to the system but says it will take time to sort through it.
"I don't want them to get caught not having an earned pay raise or a legitimate pay raise that they deserve just because we haven't figured out who the small number of bad teachers are," Gunn said.
That's why he wants to look for the funds to make across the board raises possible this year.
"If we're demanding more. I think we should pay them more," said Speaker Gunn.
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