Teacher raises, school funding and Common Core debated - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Teacher raises, school funding and Common Core debated

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

"How do you expect for us to compete when you're not giving us the tool to compete with?" asked Greenwood Public School President Bill Clay.

Clay feels like legislators are denying students the opportunity to succeed. One senator spoke about concerns of his own with education being under funded by $1.3 billion in the state.

Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton also made a plea.

"When it comes to adequate funding of education, it's time for a little less conversation and a lot more action," said Mayor Shelton.

Other mayors described the predicament they're put in when the state doesn't pay up on its end for education.

"They simply shift the financial burden onto the localities and the counties," explained Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran. "The school district has no choice but to come and ask for extra funding from the cities and counties."

An amendment was passed in the Senate Wednesday that would redirect $60 million from Medicaid to MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program). That was presented by Senator Hob Bryan and passed with a narrow margin of 26-24.

Less funding translates to fewer teachers. Their pay is already on the board of hot topics this session.

"We need to support those teacher salaries, now and forever," said Joyce Helmick, Mississippi Association of Educators President.

While it was discussed on the bottom floor of the Capitol, it was brought back up on the House floor. But the final product is still up in the air.

Instead of agreeing to the Senate plan, the House is sending the bill to conference. That is cause for concern for the Association of Educators.

"Past history has been whichever house it passed the better plan from our point of view, when it goes to conference it normally comes out less than the better plan that was offered," said Frank Yates, MAE Executive Director.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves released a statement that said:

"Unfortunately, the House voted today against teachers getting $3,500 more in their paycheck by July 1, 2015. I had hoped this week Gov. Bryant could sign a significant teacher pay increase that included merit pay and was within our budget, but the House let political posturing win over increased teacher pay."

Speaker Philip Gunn released a statement that said in part:

"It is obvious that everyone in the Capitol supports a teacher pay raise," said Speaker of the House Philip Gunn.  "We in the House have passed a bill that would provide each teacher a raise. The Senate has followed our lead and done the same.  We commend the Senate for coming around to our way of thinking regarding a pay raise.  That being said, we are unable to concur on the bill they sent us last week." 

Gunn's release listed the following problems the House has with the Senate plan:

  1. The merit pay proposal is unconstitutional.
  2. The Senate Plan includes a smaller total amount than the House Plan: $2,500 vs. $4,250.
  3. The Senate Plan supports lower starting salaries for teachers overall: $34,390 vs. $35,150.
  4. The Senate's merit plan disincentivizes good teachers to go to or remain in "C", "D" and "F" schools. The money follows the school, not the teacher, under the merit-based Senate plan.
  5. Therefore, under the Senate plan, 343 schools would not receive pay raises if we based the pay raise on today's school ratings.
  6. There is no guarantee that the merit dollars would go toward teacher salaries. That money could go toward supplies and equipment.

Another education debate lasted nearly two hours on the Senate floor. The focus was on Common Core.

It started with an education funding bill that includes a line item that would give nearly $700,000 for Common Core implementation. Specifically for teacher training on the literacy component.

The debate got heated several time. Much of it was between Tea Party members and Republicans.

Senator Angela Hill offered an amendment that would have removed the money for Common Core and redirected it to teacher pay raises. After a lengthy debate, that amendment failed.

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