Thank you for making all those calls to legislators today about the private school voucher provision that was sneaked into the 1,000-page bond bill just before midnight. It worked! A big THANK-YOU to our legislators for insisting that the language creating a new voucher program be removed.
This evening, the House and Senate adopted the conference report for the school funding bill. An extra $25-million in funding from lottery proceeds went to education this year, helping to boost pre-k through grade 12 funding for FY2022 by $102-million, or 4% overall. HB 1387, the school funding bill, includes:
- An additional $51.4-million for the teacher and teacher assistant pay raise
- A $13-million increase in MAEP funding to cover the increase in health insurance premiums for teachers and staff
- $8-million more in teacher supply funds, for a total of $20-million – a 67% increase
- An increase of $9.7-million for the Early Learning Collaborative program, doubling the number of pre-k seats at the much-needed higher rate of $2,500 per full-day student and $1,250 for half-day, and adding $1.5-million for early learning coaches
- $5-million for math coaches, enough for about 55 coaches
- Full funding for the National Board Teacher Certification and Chickasaw Cession programs
- A $3.8-million increase for vocational education
- A $1.3-million increase for the Schools for the Blind and the Deaf
Despite the welcome increases in funding, the MAEP is underfunded this year by $272-million, based on the hold harmless provision for average daily attendance passed earlier in the session.
School districts will have 10 calendar days after the governor signs HB 1387 to notify teachers of nonrenewal.
We are grateful to our education chairs, Sen. DeBar and Rep. Bennett, and vice chairs Sen. Blount and Rep. McCarty, who made important strides toward a teacher compensation package to address our teacher shortage. Gov. Reeves signed the teacher pay raise bill today, so all teachers will gain:
- A $1,000 pay raise (HB 852)
- An estimated $270 more in teacher supply funds for a total of $675 (HB 1387)
In an effort to encourage new teachers to enter the profession, beginning teachers will also gain:
- An extra $110 for a total $1,110 pay raise, bringing starting pay to $37,000 (HB 852)
- A maximum $15,000 pay-down of their student loans over three years, with the maximum going to those who teach in critical shortage areas; new teachers in non-critical shortage areas can earn up to $7,000 toward their student loans over three years; this program is capped at 150 new teacher participants each year (HB 1179)
Additionally, teachers licensed in other states will be granted license reciprocity, making it easier for them to teach in Mississippi (SB 2267). Lawmakers will use the “off-season” to study teacher compensation, with a goal of hammering out a plan to move Mississippi’s teacher salaries to the Southeastern average.
I am disappointed that the rate increase for pre-k seats was not written into the law (though we are grateful that the Legislature provided sufficient funding for the higher rate in the appropriation bill). We will try again next year to get it codified. It is important.
And kudos to Sen. Boyd and Rep. Deweese for ushering through legislation that begins to address challenges with dyslexia and related learning disorders (HB 754).
You can find details of these and other bills we have followed on our web site’s Bill Tracker page. The Legislature still has a few bills to finish up before they adjourn Sine Die.
Please be sure to thank our legislators for their commitment to public education. Lots more work remains to be done to ensure that teachers are fairly compensated and that our students have the resources they need to be successful, but we are making progress.
And my heartfelt thanks to you. Mississippi children rely on us to be their voices, to lift up the issues that have a dramatic impact on their life chances. And you come through for them year after year. Thank you for standing in the gap to give thousands of Mississippi children, most of whom you will never know, a real shot at a bright future. What a blessing!