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MS House passes teacher pay bill 114-6, moves into senate

Pine Belt Rep. Kent McCarty co-authored the bill
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 6:39 PM CST
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PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - Wednesday afternoon, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed House Bill 503 on teacher pay raises. The bill went with an overwhelming majority of 114 ‘yes’ votes to only 6 ‘no’ votes.

The plan would provide a pay raise for every teacher and teacher assistant in the state. Those raises vary between at least $4,000 and $6,000 depending on experience. It would also increase the starting salary to $43,000 a year. That starting salary would be the highest in the southeast and is above the national average.

District 101 Representative Kent McCarty of Lamar County helped author the bill. He says a pay raise is long overdue and the House Bill 503 or Strategically Accelerating the Recruitment and Retention of Teachers Act (START) plan is the way to bring Mississippi up to par.

“I absolutely think that ‘aggressive’ is probably a great word for it. And I think that when you look at our teacher shortage, and you look at how severe teacher shortages in Mississippi are, and you look at the research that shows why we have such big teachers shortages, and you look at the states around us, we’re not competitive,” says McCarty.

McCarty says a competitive starting salary is key for keeping teachers in Mississippi as well as drawing teachers to the state.

“We talked about it, we talked about making the teacher pay competitive with teacher pay in other states, but the other consideration is that we need to make teacher pay competitive with other careers and Mississippi. We need the teaching profession, to have the dignity that it deserves. We wanted to make sure that you know someone starting out teaching could look at a variety of options in front of them and would say, ‘I think being a teacher will be really fulfilling for me, it’s what I wanted to do. I want to make a difference, but also don’t have to work two jobs to do it,’” says McCarty.

The bill would also eliminate the cap on National Board supplements for school nurses and speech pathologists. It would add National Board Certified Athletic Trainers to the list of those professionals eligible for a National Board supplement.

The House Bill now moves into the state senate, which has its own plan to consider. For teachers, it’s a waiting game to see what passes through the senate and ultimately lands on Gov. Tate Reeves’ desk for approval.

“Everybody, both parties, both sides of the building and the Governor’s office, all agrees that this is something we have to address. While our plan is different than the Senate’s plan, I was very encouraged to see that both plans came out roughly the same amount, maybe I think ours in total cost was a little larger than the Senate,” explains McCarty.

“The Governor’s proposed budget recommendation was about where we’re at too, as far as total costs. He went about it a little bit of a different way. I just think it’s good to see that all three, you know, House and Senate, Governor’s office, are all looking at the same general sizing investment in teacher pay. And I think that that bodes very well for our chances on this bill as it moves through the legislative process.”

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