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Mississippi Teachers ‘Not Victims of Petty Politics’ as Senate Keeps $1,000 Pay Raise Alive

Senators give a standing ovation in chamber on Feb. 5 after passing Senate Bill 2001 to raise teacher salaries by $1,000 and bring starting salaries to $37,000. The Senate announced this evening that it would its version of the pay raise to die and instead passed a functionally equivalent House bill. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Mississippi’s K-12 public-school teachers may still get a $1,000 pay raise after lawmakers in the House and Senate reached a last-minute agreement. Some feared the raise could become a casualty amid a legislative impasse over a House tax-reform bill.

Earlier in the 2021 legislative session, both chambers passed separate bills to raise teacher pay to $1,000. Last week, though, the House decided to instead bundle the raise in a bill House Speaker Philip Gunn spearheaded that would have ended the state’s income tax while raising the state sales tax.

Mississippi Free Press State Reporter Nick Judin reported yesterday that Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, the Senate president, showed little interest in passing the bill and had concerns about its consequences. Hosmann cited the budget crises Kansas faced after ending its own state income tax, which this publication detailed on Feb. 23

The Senate passed its stand-alone $1,000 teacher pay-raise bill on Feb. 5 with the House passing a functionally equivalent but separate bill five days later on Feb. 10 before deciding to roll it into the income-tax bill.

The Senate had been set to let the House bill die—until the House signaled that it was prepared to allow the Senate’s earlier version to die on deadline, too.

In a statement tonight, the Republican Senate president announced that Senate committees had adopted the House’s stand-alone teacher pay-raise bill and would allow the Senate version of the bill to die. 

“Many of our conversations this week in the Legislature have centered on making Mississippi more competitive and prosperous. Supporting our teachers, who help create the next generation of Mississippi leaders, is integral to this effort,” Hosemann said. “Tonight, Senate committees adopted a House pay-raise bill to keep a stand-alone bill for teachers alive. We have been informed the prior Senate bill delivered to the House will die.”

“We want our teachers to know how important they are to our collective success, and particularly do not want their efforts during the pandemic to go unnoticed. When the second teacher pay-raise bill is returned to the House, we hope they will quickly approve it,” Hosemann wrote.

The Parents’ Campaign, a pro-public education lobbying group, praised Senate leaders in a tweet shortly after Hosemann released his statement.

“When the Senate got word that the House had killed its teacher pay-raise bill, a bill coauthored by every senator (a sign of how fervently they wanted it to become law), they put pride aside & took up the House bill to ensure that teachers weren’t the victims of petty politics,” the organization said.

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