Legislative Update (3/22/19)
Friday, March 22, 2019
Posted by: Kelly Riley
As shared previously, the Mississippi House of Representatives amended SB 2770, the teacher pay raise bill, to provide a $4,000 teacher pay raise over the next two years, rather than the $1,000 raise proposed by the Senate. Unfortunately, as passed the House, SB 2770 contains a reverse repealer (i.e., the bill is repealed before it goes into effect), which means the bill must go to conference. The Senate voted to invite conference on the bill Tuesday.
A conference committee comprised of three representatives and three senators will now negotiate a final version of the bill – including the final amount of the pay raise - to be considered by both chambers. While neither House nor Senate conferees were denoted in the legislative bill tracking system as of 4:00 yesterday afternoon, MPE Executive Director Kelly Riley has been told that Representatives John Read (email@example.com), Richard Bennett (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Rob Roberson (email@example.com) will serve as House conferees. If the Senate does as it did last year, conferees will complete their negotiations and file a conference report before they are announced and posted on the legislative website.
The legislative leadership has indicated that legislators will wrap up this session and go home early next week, so all final legislation will be acted upon by that time. Formal conference committee meetings will not be held. Legislators will go home today, but committee chairmen will return to the capitol Sunday to sign conference reports. The House and Senate will start voting on conference reports Monday. This means that the next few days are critical. If you have not contacted your senator and representative to share your thoughts on the proposed pay raise, the TIME TO DO SO IS NOW! If you have contacted them, do so again and remind them that you are watching their vote. As we have shared previously, absent significant action from the legislature, the gap between Mississippi’s average teacher pay and that of our neighboring states will be much wider in the near future and this will only exacerbate our state’s teacher shortage.
You may call the capitol switchboard (601-359-3770) to leave a message for your senator and representative. If you are unsure who represents you, The Parents’ Campaign has a great listing of legislators by school district. You may call 601-359-3200 to share your thoughts with Lt. Governor Reeves and 601-359-3300 to reach Speaker Gunn’s office.
MPE will be closely monitoring developments at the capitol this weekend and will keep you updated via our Facebook and Twitter @MSProfEd) throughout the weekend. We are paying particular attention to funding in HB 1643 (the K-12 appropriation bill) for Mississippi’s Education Scholarship Program, the voucher program that allows parents to use public tax dollars to send their children to private schools. Empower Mississippi (a pro-choice, pro-voucher organization) is urging legislators to provide increased funding for these vouchers. As shared previously, a report released in December by the Legislative PEER Committee found no need for additional funding, as MDE only disbursed 70% ($3.9 million) of available funding in fiscal years 2017-2018, while 30% ($1.7 million) lapsed and was returned to the State Treasury.
Click here for our latest bill tracking spreadsheet. Governor Bryant has signed three education bills:
- HB 572 allows an educator to take personal leave on the day before the first day of school, the last day of school, the day before a holiday or the day after a holiday in the event of death or funeral of an immediate family member.
- HB 654 provides that in a race for local county board of education, the candidate in each supervisor’s district who receives the majority of votes shall be declared the winner and provides regulations for a runoff if neither candidate receives the majority of votes cast in the election.
- HB 1322 requires the State Board of Education to recommend a face-to-face comprehensive eye exam for any child entering first grade who fails a vision screening.