Missisissippi state senators Friday passed two measures of special interest to DeSoto County voters: the teacher pay raise bill and a bill to prohibit Critical Race Theory from being taught in state schools.
Senators earlier passed a teacher pay raise and sent it to the House, which then passed a similar bill with changes. Thus, the Senate had to again address the issue and consider the House differences.
On a 35-0 vote Friday morning, Senators passed the bill again with a couple more adjustments that sent the measure back to the House one more time before it can reach Gov. Tate Reeves’ desk. If agreed on, approved and signed, the new salary schedules would start on July 1.
The Senate’s version of the bill has a $210 million price tag, less than the original House proposal worth $219 million. If the two versions can’t settle differences, it would go to a conference.
But Friday’s vote becomes another step forward in getting Mississippi’s teachers compensated more closely to the southeastern U.S. average and up from near the bottom of the list for teacher and teacher support staff, such as teacher assistants, compensation.
You can read the details of the bill on the Mississippi Legislature’s website for SB 2444.
State Sen. Dr. David Parker (R-Olive Branch) posted on his Facebook page shortly after the bill’s passage. He called it the “most significant teacher pay raise during his time in office.”
“My goal has been to get Mississippi up from the bottom and to be at or above the Southeastern average of teacher pay,” Parker said. “I am happy to say that today’s bill does just that thing. The House has passed a similar bill and in the end there will be fine tuning… but today’s effort by the Senate shows that we will move this raise forward this year.”
Parker said the average salary was $30,900 yearly for teachers when he first arrived in Jackson. He said instructors with a bachelor’s degree will now get an annual salary of $40,000 and there will also be step raises for new teachers that don’t exist now.
“The House version had a higher starting pay but slower step raises along the teacher’s career,” Parker wrote. “Again, this is the Senate version and the final passage will be a version that combines the good ideas of the Senate with the good ideas of the House.”
The other measure that passed the Senate Friday and was sent to the House is a bill crafted by state Sen. Michael McLendon (R-Hernando) that would prohibit the instruction of the controversial Critical Race Theory.
The bill SB 2113, had more DeSoto County presence on the Senate floor. State Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven) was one of several additional authors for the bill, which was debated on the floor Friday before passage on a 32-2 vote.
Under the measure, no public university, school district or charter school would be able to teach material that is in line with Critical Race Theory. Groups such as the Mississippi Center for Public Policy (MCPP) and the Mississippi Federation of Republican Women, led by Kimberly Remak of Olive Branch, favored the prohibition.
However, the Senate’s Black Caucus walked off the floor ahead of the vote in protest and stayed away from the Chamber for the teacher pay raise bill vote that followed.
“Simply stated … no child shall be adversely treated or taught that they are inherently inferior or superior to another based on sex, race, religion, ethnicity or national origin,” McLendon said.
In a news release after the vote, the MCPP said, “The legislation protects students from being compelled to affirm or adhere to, in public school settings, that certain races or sexes are superior or inferior to others. It also protects taxpayer dollars from being sent to institutions that teach these ideologies.”
MCPP Senior Director of Policy & Communications Hunter Estes said, “This reaffirms long standing American principles. No man or woman is better than another based on his race and no ideology that suggests otherwise will be pushed on our kids in Mississippi classrooms.”
Earlier, the Mississippi Department of Education proposed a new social studies curriculum for the 2022-23 school year with a primary source for the curriculum said to be coming from the National Council for the Social Studies, which is a supporter of Critical Race Theory.
Public response to the proposal forced MDE to hold a public hearing on the plan.
“We stand firmly opposed to mandating curriculums and educational standards at the federal, state, and local levels that include Critical Race Theory and discredit the values which our nation was founded on,” Remak was quoted in a news release about the MDE plan.
Here is a link to video from the deliberations Friday concerning McLendon’s bill.