Caresse Jackman

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Video: Teachers Relieved but Concerned About Pay Raise Bill

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NORTHEAST MS, (WCBI)- It’s a move many educators across the state say is long overdue. After gaining approval from state representatives Wednesday, House Bill 204 is now in the Mississippi Senate. The proposed legislation would increase teacher salaries by $4,250 over the next four years. Columbus’s Franklin Academy curriculum counselor Mandy Clark applauds lawmaker’s efforts.

“After not having a pay raise in almost 20 years in Mississippi, I think anything would be great over a period of time. I think it would be an incentive for teachers as well,” said Clark.

But there are still parts of the bill that educators are questioning. Teachers in their first five years would get raises automatically. Those with more than five years of experience would have to meet 3 of 22 professional benchmarks. Those range from teacher certifications to leadership roles. Amy Hazzard is a 5th Grade Math Teacher at Central School in West Point. She taught for 20 years and finds this alarming.

“It seems to me that through the years, working very hard and proving myself as an educator, that I would be able to receive a pay raise without extra criteria added to that,” said Hazzard.

“We have a deficit in our state as far as with getting teachers here, so I understand the desire to put that enticement out there to keep those teachers and get them here. But, I am also a veteran teacher. And I also know teachers ahead of me have put a lot of more years in,” said Clark.

House democrats proposed an amendment for a $5,000 raise immediately with no requirements for veteran teachers, but majority Republicans rejected it.

“We would certainly rather have the $5,000 pay raise with the amendment that was presented yesterday that did not pass. We feel like we would rather receive that money all at one time across the board. It will certainly make a greater impact,” Hazzard.

Both Hazzard and Clark say teaching is a rewarding job that they hope lawmakers recognize and appreciate while working on this bill.

“I hope that our legislators will understand that we need this pay raise. We appreciate those that are in support of teachers and that we hope they will continue to support us,” said Hazzard.

Under the proposal, teachers will receive a $1,500 raise over the next two years and a projected raise of $2,750 over the following two years, assuming state revenues continue growing.