State must fix teacher raise problem

Published 10:07 pm Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Mississippi Department of Education error has caused some understandable consternation at school districts across the state. MDE miscounted the number of eligible teachers when it calculated how much a $1,500 pay raise would cost the state.

The error means the state appropriated $10-$15 million less than needed for all eligible teachers to get the raise. School superintendents discovered the error Tuesday when the department sent financial documents to districts.

Gov. Phil Bryant said taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for a special session so the Legislature can correct what is MDE’s mistake.

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“The taxpayers of Mississippi should not have to fund a special session because of a mistake made by the Mississippi Department of Education,” Bryant said in a statement. “MDE should identify any other funds that can be used to pay for the raises not accounted for in the original funding, and the Legislature can refund that source through a deficit appropriation in January.”

Considering Republican leaders have been accused of caring about teacher pay only during election years, MDE’s error is bound to be making things complicated for them. Teachers were not happy with the $1,500 raise. The public seemed to feel the same way.

And now because of the mistake school districts may have to absorb the cost of some raises. Or MDE will have to do the same.

Teacher pay is a contentious issue in Mississippi, and the chorus of those asking for better teacher pay will only grow louder. This snafu was the sort of bad PR Republican leaders and MDE didn’t need.

Let’s hope they sort this problem out quickly and do a better job of understanding and communicating teacher pay issues in the future.