Educators react to teacher pay raise

Inside look at teacher pay increase

PINE BELT, MS (WDAM) - The Mississippi House and Senate passed a $1,500 pay raise for teachers in the state, so we talked to educators to get their reactions to the increase and break down the numbers.

“The impact they have on the lives of children, it’s forever, and I think they should be valued for that,” Lamar County Superintendent Tess Smith said.

Smith said the raise is well deserved.

“You can’t possibly pay them what they are worth, to me and the children of this state, so I am thankful for anything they can get," Smith said. "Do I wish it was more? Absolutely I do, but I am thankful for every penny they will get.”

“A lot of our educators are not happy with the pay raise. We are thinking this is a humiliation for our educators here,” said Joyce Helmick, president of Mississippi Association of Educators.

The pay raise passed in the Senate by a vote of 46-2 and in the House 88-27. Helmick said there was a bigger picture to the pay increase.

“Our vision for the pay raise was to help with the teacher shortage in our state," Helmick said. "We felt like that if we could have a substantial pay raise, we could be moving closer to the southeaster average and into a pay raise that would help us recruit and retain educators.”

The latest revenue report from the Mississippi Legislative Budget Office indicates $129 million over what the state thought it would collect. Senator Joey Fillingane, who voted yes for the pay increase, explained why teachers did not see a larger raise.

“This whole idea of why we didn’t do a $4,000 pay increase, it begs the question, did those people understand that we didn’t have that much money and did they understand the consequences of us doing that would have either been to raise taxes or either slash Medicaid or some other large budget in the state government to come up with difference?” Fillingane said.

If teachers would have received a $4,000 pay increase, that would be an annual cost of $208 million, according to Fillingane.

“We didn’t have $208 million, we had $129," Fillingane said. "So, there was a shortage right there.”

Fillingane said the $1,500 increase is costing the state $78 millio every year.

“And we also had a little money left over to be able to do a very small, but well-deserved pay increase for our state employees,” Fillingane said.

The measure will be rolled into regular paychecks and continue for future years.

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