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House, Senate agree to teacher pay-raise plan

schoolJACKSON — A teacher pay-raise plan calls for Mississippi public school teachers to get two across-the-board pay raises worth $2,500 and then be eligible for merit payments in 2016-2017.

House and Senate negotiators agreed to the plan yesterday. The full House and Senate must still both pass House Bill 504 and send it to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant before it becomes law.

The bill includes a $1,500 raise that would begin July 1, and a $1,000 raise that would follow in the budget year beginning July 1, 2015. Lawmakers passed a bill yesterday to cover the $60-million-plus cost of the first year of the plan.

The third year would give $100 per student to schools rating “A” on the state’s A-to-F grading system, or to schools moving up a grade. Schools rated “B” would get $75 per student. Money would go to merit payments split among all teachers and employees of a school, but administrators such as principals would be excluded.

If the system were in place today, it would generate about $24 million in payments, said Laura Hipp, a spokeswoman for Republican Lt. Gov Tate Reeves. But it’s not clear how payments would average out. How much money is generated in 2016-2017 would depend on how schools grade then. The 2016-2017 school year is the first where Mississippi school grades would depend on new multistate tests geared to the Common Core standards. Some administrators have warned scores and grades could drop sharply that year.

Many critics have said the money would encourage the best teachers to gravitate toward A-rated schools. The bill pledges to develop some sort of pay plan for “high-performing” teachers in lower-rated schools before 2016-2017, in an effort to prevent that.

Talk of a teacher pay raise began before the session with House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton. But House and Senate negotiators basically adopted the Senate plan, turning aside a House proposal to give across-the-board raises of up to $4,250 to teachers over four years. The House adopted that position after abandoning an earlier proposal requiring teachers to meet three of 23 qualifications ranging from national board certification to civic club membership.

“We have gone back and forth with the Senate,” Gunn said in a statement. “They were unwilling to go beyond $2,500 over two years, but they did agree that all pay raise dollars go into the teachers’ pockets and not be used for other expenditures.”

The original Senate proposal would have allowed recipients to vote to use the merit payments for school equipment.

“I congratulate Speaker Gunn for his leadership on this issue and I’m glad we can come to an agreement,” Reeves said.

 

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