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Gov. Bryant touts teacher pay raise program

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant used his eighth and final State of the State speech to push for a teacher pay raise.

Bryant said that although others have contributed to the lives and education of students, teachers “alone have been there in the classroom, often challenged and overwhelmed by circumstances beyond their control, teaching still, inspiring still, and leading children to rise together.”

“Our gratitude to these classroom heroes and the essential value of public education are why we passed a $100 million teacher pay raise in 2014 and why I now call on the members of this body to join me in giving teachers their second pay raise in five years,” said the governor. “Send me a bill to authorize a pay raise for these most critical guardians of Mississippi’s future, and I will sign it.”

The Republican asked lawmakers to pass a school safety act, although he is not offering details of the plan. He says he wants a “safe and protected environment” in schools.

He says Mississippi’s economy is faring well, with low unemployment and an increase in exporting goods.

“In January of 2012, our state’s unemployment rate was 9.4 percent. In 2017, we broke a record by dropping below 5 percent to the lowest unemployment number ever recorded. Today, it is 4.7 percent,” he said.

“The better news is the unemployment rate has been at or below 4.8 percent for 12 months in a row, and real median household income has risen by 8.4 percent since 2011. And just in case you’re not tired of winning yet, we have 80,000 more Mississippians working today than the day I took office,” he added.

He says a “Complete to Compete” program is helping adults return to college to finish earning their degrees, and that workforce development is the “highest priority” in Mississippi.

Bryant says the state has improved its foster care system, but still has “much work to do.” More than 6,100 children statewide were in the foster system when Justice Jess Dickinson began leading the Child Protection Services program. Today, said Bryant, that number has dropped below 4,900.

“Perhaps the most incredible success has occurred with adopted families.  The number of adoptions has more than doubled in just one year,” Bryant said.

The governor finished his address by calling on the legislators to pass criminal justice reform measures, to continue to support the right to bear arms and continue “to make Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child.”

Bryant closed by saying, “Let us join hands and finish this year, and this decade, with a spirit of action and an eye toward the future.”