This year, both the Mississippi House and Senate authored versions of a teacher pay raise, with fundamentally the same components. Members appropriated $1,000 for teachers and assistant teachers across the board, with $100 more for assistant teachers.
The bill would bring base pay for teachers to $37,000, which is just shy of the Southeastern average at $38,420 and cost the state about $51 million.
After a long day of uncertainty surrounding the passage of either bill, the House version was eventually taken up in the referred Senate committees.
“We are going to ensure we put teachers over politics. We are going to make sure that the livelihoods of our educators are not toyed with and that we as the Senate ensure our educators are paid well for the work that they do, especially during the trying times we are in,” said Senate Education Chairman Dennis DeBar.
Both the Senate Education and Appropriations Committees passed over the bill in their early meetings on Tuesday. However, after the 4:30pm gavel in, they scheduled more times to meet which allowed Senators to consider the double referred bill.
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HB 852 had nearly identical language as the Senate version. This is a common practice in the Legislative process; companion bills come from each chamber and one is eventually weeded out in the process.
The bill was brought up first in Education by Chairman DeBar. He offered a strike all that inserted the actual language from SB 2001 into the House bill. He made note that the Senate bill that has been brought forward for the past two years in a row has died in the House both times.
Sen. Brice Wiggins spoke before passage asserting that the Senate’s version had been hijacked by the House when a teacher pay raise was added by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn’s Tax Freedom Act. It also provides a $1,000 pay raise on top of the income tax cuts provided in the legislation.
DeBar concluded that this was the action they needed to take in order to make sure teachers got a raise this session. The bill was then passed.
The measure then went to the Senate Appropriations Committee where Chairman Briggs Hopson also took up the bill, as it was amended with the strike all. Senator DeBar was called on to explain the bill before it passed the committee.
For now, the teacher pay raise bill survives to see the next deadline.
Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann released the following statement after the passage:
“Many of our conversations this week in the Legislature have centered on making Mississippi more competitive and prosperous. Supporting our teachers, who help create the next generation of Mississippi leaders, is integral to this effort.
Tonight, Senate committees adopted a House pay raise bill to keep a stand-alone bill for teachers alive. We have been informed the prior Senate bill delivered to the House will die.
We want our teachers to know how important they are to our collective success, and particularly do not want their efforts during the pandemic to go unnoticed. When the second teacher pay raise bill is returned to the House, we hope they will quickly approve it.”