House committee passes fix for 10,000 public school teachers omitted from 2019 pay raise

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Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Magee Elementary School teacher Annashi Wyatt works with students as they work on a phonics and phonemic awareness exercise Friday, December 6, 2019.

The House took steps Wednesday to correct a bureaucratic error to ensure there is enough money available to give all Mississippi teachers their $1,500 pay raise that was signed into law last year.

In the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers passed a $1,500 pay raise for public school teachers and assistant teachers and set aside $58 million to cover the expense. Before the bill was passed, the Legislature asked the Mississippi Department of Education for a count of teachers to be included in the raise and how much that would cost. Department officials used an incorrect code in an information system used to track teachers, and as a result only included state-funded teaching positions.

Because some teachers are paid with federal funds instead of state funds, some special education, career technical education, gifted classes and teacher assistants were accidentally omitted from the count. The error was discovered when local superintendents discovered there were not enough funds for them to give raises to all of their teachers. In all, nearly 10,000 teachers were omitted from the raise.

Lawmakers took the first step to correct this Wednesday, when the House appropriations committee passed House Bill 1 — the first bill considered by lawmakers in the House or Senate during the 2020 legislative session.

The bill authorizes $18.4 million from the state’s general fund to ensure there is enough to pay for the raises of all 40,991 certified teachers and assistant teachers. The bill now moves on to the full House for consideration.