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Teachers applaud action

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
July 24, 2001
Meridian public school teachers say they are pleased state legislators removed restrictions from a pay package approved last year, ensuring automatic raises for the next five years.
Last year, state lawmakers passed a five-year plan to gradually raise Mississippi public school teacher salaries to the projected Southeastern average of about $41,000 by the 2005-2006 school year.
On Monday, state House and Senate members overwhelming voted to strike a provision in the pay plan that said teachers would receive the raises only if the state had at least 5 percent growth each year.
The House voted 112-3 and the Senate voted 45-3 to remove the provision from the pay raise. Now, teachers will receive their raises every year regardless of the state's economic growth.
Lauren Wells, president of the Lauderdale County chapter of the Mississippi American Federation of Teachers, said the legislative action came too late for some teachers who left the state because of the pay raise restriction.
State Sen. Terry Burton, D-Newton, and a Senate Education Committee member, said removing the 5 percent clause should let the state keep its best teachers and possibly attract more students to the profession.
Some lawmakers criticized Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for calling the special session and costing the state about $48,000 in salary and expenses. They said Musgrove could have saved money by adding the teacher pay issue to a special session later this year on congressional redistricting.
State Sen. Videt Carmichael, D-Meridian, also on the Senate Education Committee, said lawmakers will expect their money's worth from teachers now that they are guaranteed pay raises.
State Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, said today that the timing of the special section was wasteful of the taxpayers' money.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3226, or e-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.