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Budget woes threaten teacher stipends

JACKSON — Mississippi’s budget situation could result in some top teachers losing pay supplements.

More than 200 Rankin County teachers and about 40 in Hinds County could lose their $6,000 annual National Board Certification stipend in the 2011 budget. The supplement is based on state funding, but Mississippi’s revenue collections are millions of dollars below projections.

Administrators in those districts are considering an addendum to teachers’ contracts that says the supplement won’t be paid if it’s not funded by lawmakers, according to The Clarion-Ledger.

“We certainly have excellent teachers who have not been in the National Board process, but this is a slap in the face, and it’s a huge morale issue for these teachers,” said Kelly Riley, deputy director of Mississippi Professional Educators. “These teachers have worked hard for this certification. It’s not an easy process.”

Last week, Rankin County schools Superintendent Lynn Weathersby sent teachers a letter explaining that the district’s ability to pay the supplement is based on state funding.

“With over 200 National Board Certified teachers in (the district), this is not an expense the district can absorb during the current economic situation,” he wrote. “This means that your current contract must be changed. Your new contract will be the regular teaching contract with an addendum that states that the National Board supplement is contingent upon state funding.”

Weathersby said the contract change is a legal requirement.

Rankin County has the most National Board Certified teachers in the state, and it would cost almost $1.4 million to pay the supplement, said Carol Jones, a district spokeswoman.

It would cost more than $240,000 to pay the supplement for Hinds County teachers, district spokesman James Mason said.

“We’re honoring the contracts for teachers this year, even though that money was taken away” in Gov. Haley Barbour’s budget cuts, Mason said.

About 40 percent of the state’s teachers have similar contract provisions, according to the state Department of Education.

Mississippi has 3,103 National Board Certified teachers, including 222 who received certification last year, according to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Mississippi K-12 schools have lost $206.5 million in state-level budget cuts. Funds for the program have not been spared.

In January, Barbour requested a $1.9 million cut for the supplement and another $110,642 this month, for a total of more than $2 million, said Pete Smith, spokesman for the Department of Education.

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