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The time is now for raising teacher pay

As I See It

Many might wonder why a business publisher would concern himself with education. I think I can provide a satisfactory explanation.

Several years ago, my work involved traveling up North and trying to convince industry leaders to relocate all or a portion of their business to the South. Our sales pitch was that Mississippi had an ample supply of strong work-ethic, low-cost labor that could be integrated into the operation without loss of quality and with substantial cost savings.

It surprised and offended me to learn that many in the northern U.S. felt that Mississippi workers could not handle even the most basic industrial tasks.

Since perception is reality, we must overcome the perception that Mississippi high school graduates are ill-prepared to enter the industrial work force. Improving public school education is the place to attack the problem.

We need to now commit to raising teacher pay to the southeastern average and maintaining it there. This action is necessary to assure prospects that a teaching career will produce a reasonable livelihood. Only then will we attract the highest quality individuals to choose teaching as a vocation.

The good news about having sold our souls to the gaming industry is that our state treasury is awash in money. The old argument that we cannot afford to raise teacher pay to the southeastern average is no longer valid.

Performance evaluation

goes hand-in-hand with

any teacher pay increase

In conjunction with a pay increase, we need to implement a system of teacher performance evaluation. Teachers have long been under-paid and under-evaluated.

All professionals are subject to performance evaluation and teachers should be no exception.

In bygone days, parents spent more time with young people during the formative years and taught values by both rhetoric and example. Nowadays, parents fall short in both investing time and instilling values in young people. This leaves teachers to fill the void. It makes sense that we would want the highest quality individuals to hold such influence over our children. High quality individuals expect to be paid for their efforts.

Young people must get a good education to hold a job as an adult. The alternative in the past has been a life of welfare; however, that option seems to be ending. That leaves a life of crime for the uneducated.

Maintaining the status quo

insures state will stay on bottom

With the confluence of wealth that is flowing into the state treasury from gaming taxes and the tobacco settlement, I challenge anyone to offer a better place to put these dollars to work than education. Without commitment of these funds to a defined project, they will be absorbed into general government operations and in a few years we will not be able to recall that we had this opportunity.

What is the Legislature waiting on? If not now, then when?

Our children are worth the whatever effort is required to make them into productive adults. By improving education, we increase our chances of attracting new industry to our state. By maintaining the status quo, we insure that Mississippi will continue to be at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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