Other areas targeted to supply teacher pay

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2001

The issue of funding was largely sidestepped Monday as lawmakersquickly accomplished the politically-popular task of removing acondition that the state’s economy grow by 5 percent in order forteacher pay raises to take effect.

As one area lawmaker said, how the raises will be paid forremains “a good question” and “too muddy” at this point. It’sprobably not an all-bad thing, but the possibility of funding cutsto other state agencies has already been mentioned.

House Speaker Tim Ford told the Associated Press thatuniversities and community colleges can expect significant budgetcuts next year to pay for the $300 million teacher pay plan. Bothare already dealing with cuts that have forced tuition increasesand staff reductions. Most state agencies are also dealing withbudget cuts.

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The pay raise trigger on teacher pay sounded good earlier thisyear when it was included as a fiscally-responsible thing to do andkept the pay bill alive. It still sounds good, but fiscalresponsibility and support for education don’t always mix.

Few are arguing that state teachers need better compensation.But what did the special session really achieve?

Not much, other than to give Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and lawmakersa photo op and press conference chance to demonstrate their”commitment” to education.

The special session did manage to relieve taxpayers of $48,000to pay for the totally-unnecessary gathering.

Monday’s action could have been done during a redistrictingspecial session expected later this year, or even during nextyear’s regular session, when lawmakers must ante up for theiractions this week.

The trigger on teacher pay is gone. But, without a solid planfor financing the raises, we fear legislators have putMississippi’s taxpayers under the gun.