Meridian Star

Local News

April 23, 2014

Pay increases, merit raises for Miss. teachers

MERIDIAN —     JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi public schoolteachers can look forward to a $2,500 pay increase over the next two years on top of normal annual raises, with Gov. Phil Bryant signing a bill Tuesday that he says he hopes will aid performance.

    "What we are trying to do with this bill today is get the best and the brightest in the classroom," he told reporters at the Capitol.

    The bill includes a $1,500 raise July 1 and a $1,000 raise that would follow in the budget year beginning July 1, 2015. Teachers also will be eligible for merit payments in 2016-17.

    In that year, schools will get merit payments, to be split among all teachers and employees, but excluding administrators such as principals. Schools that rate an "A'' on the state's A-to-F system will get $100 per student; schools that move up one grade will get the same. Schools rated "B'' will get $75 per student.

    Teachers also will get their yearly step raise of at least $495. Those with advanced degrees get larger annual raises.

    Mississippi had the second-lowest average teacher pay in the nation in 2013 at $41,994, above only South Dakota, according to a survey by the National Education Association.

    The push for higher pay originated with House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton.

    "If we are to retain those teachers and get them to stay in the field of education, we have got to give them higher salaries," Gunn said.

    The raises will cost $60 million in the first year and an additional $40 million in the second year. Estimates show that the merit pay plan will cost $24 million using the most recent school ratings.

    How much money is generated in 2016-17 would depend on how schools grade then. Mississippi school grades would depend on new multi-state tests geared to the Common Core standards that year. Some have warned scores could drop sharply.

    Critics have said the money would encourage the best teachers to gravitate toward A-rated schools. The bill pledges to develop some sort of pay plan for high-performing teachers in lower-rated schools before 2016-17.

    "We certainly want to be able to reward those individual teachers in those schools that are doing a really good job," Bryant said, adding that he hoped merit pay pilot programs in Clarksdale, Rankin County, Lamar County and Gulfport would provide methods to do so.

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