Governor Bryant has signed into law HB 504, giving Mississippi teachers an across-the-board pay raise for the next two years. Teachers will see a well-deserved $1,500 bump in salary on July 1 of this year and another $1,000 increase on July 1, 2015.
Increasing teacher salaries will improve the likelihood that top-tier students will consider a career in education, and attracting more high-achieving candidates into education is essential to improving the quality of instruction offered in Mississippi schools. HB 504 is a step in the right direction!
Governor Bryant signed the K-12 funding bill, HB 1476, on April 15, which sets the deadline for teacher non-renewal notices on April 25 (state statute gives school districts a maximum of ten calendar days to issue non-renewal notices following the signing of the education appropriations bill).
Throughout the legislative session, you and many others repeatedly asked legislators to provide the strongest possible teacher pay raise AND a significant increase in the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). Shamefully, leaders withheld critical MAEP dollars from our children, choosing instead to squirrel away almost $500-million in reserve funds that won’t be available to help even one Mississippi child in the next year.
HB 1476 underfunds the MAEP by $257-million and provides only a $7.5-million increase in MAEP funding, even less than the $10-million increase that was claimed during the explanation of the conference report. While more and more is being demanded of school districts, the Legislature continues to shirk its responsibility to provide our children the resources they need to be successful in school. We are doing an analysis of what this means for the children in each of your districts in terms of funding increases, the amount of underfunding, and the unfunded mandates handed down from the Legislature. I will share that analysis with you in the coming days.
I’ve heard from many of you in the days since the Legislature adjourned, and the consistent message is that you are relieved that the most harmful legislation died – and very grateful to the legislators who stood up for the children in our public schools – but that you are angry that many legislators appear to be so committed to funneling public money to private schools and so disinterested in the fate of the overwhelming majority of our children who are being educated in our public schools.
This is exactly why your involvement is so important. One of the most important gifts that we can give our children is to hold the folks we elect accountable for the promise they have made to our kids, the promise of an adequate education. Those pushing for privatization of public schools are threatening to pour money into the campaigns of pro-privatization opponents in the next election. Some have begun visiting the districts of pro-public school legislators trying to find pro-privatization folks who will run against them. The legislators who stand up for our kids need to know that we support them, that the overwhelming majority of Mississippians stand with our public schools, and that we appreciate their votes on the bills that affect our kids’ education.
We must not hand over the fate of our children to the out-of-state for-profit/privatization crowd. They might have money, but they don’t get to vote in our elections, and I have a sneaking suspicion that they underestimate you. Let’s ramp it up, recruit more folks into our effort, and make it clear that Mississippi parents are watching closely. Our top priority is our kids, and we will do whatever it takes to ensure that they get a shot at the future they deserve.
In the coming months, we will be partnering with parents, legislators, elected officials, community leaders, educators and others who are committed to moving forward a pro-public schools agenda. If you would like to be a part of this effort – whether you have a few minutes to share or simply want to stay in the loop – just text “I’m in!” to 601-672-0953 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Our kids are more than worth it.