House sends teacher-pay battle to House-Senate conference

A House-Senate conference committee will try to settle differences over how to give teachers in Mississippi more money.

The opening salvo in that battle came the old-fashioned way -- in dueling press releases.

“It is obvious that everyone in the Capitol supports a teacher pay raise,” said Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said in a release from his office.  “We in the House have passed a bill that would provide each teacher a raise. The Senate has followed our lead and done the same.  We commend the Senate for coming around to our way of thinking regarding a pay raise.  That being said, we are unable to concur on the bill they sent us last week.” 

He then listed six ways the House disagrees with the Senate.

1.  The merit pay proposal is unconstitutional.*

2. The Senate Plan includes a smaller total amount than the House Plan: $2,500 vs. $4,250.

3.  The Senate Plan supports lower starting salaries for teachers overall: $34,390 vs. $35,150.

4.   The Senate’s merit plan disincentivizes good teachers to go to or remain in “C”, “D” and “F” schools. The money follows the school, not the teacher, under the merit-based Senate plan.

5.  Therefore, under the Senate plan, 343 schools would not receive pay raises if we based the pay raise on today’s school ratings.

6.  There is no guarantee that the merit dollars would go toward teacher salaries. That money could go toward supplies and equipment.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves was more succinct.

“Unfortunately, the House voted today against teachers getting $3,500 more in their paycheck by  July 1, 2015 ," he wrote. "I had hoped this week Gov. Bryant could sign a significant teacher pay increase that included merit pay and was within our budget, but the House let political posturing win over increased teacher pay.”

By a vote of 71-50, the House on Thursday sent the bill to conference. Now, it's up to three lucky members from the House and three from the Senate to please everyone.