Barbour: State Will Honor Teacher Pay Raise Promise

Because of the sudden revenue windfall, Governor Barbour told lawmakers his new budget proposal can increase K-12 spending by five and a half percent.

"That increase of $110 million fully funds the eight percent teacher pay raise for next year," the governor said. "It keeps our promise to our school teachers."

The governor said an additional $38 million in the public education budget would keep a promise that the governor says is essential if Mississippi wants to keep its best teachers.

"How can you recruit and retain quality teachers when you don't keep your word to them," Barbour asked.

At Anniston Avenue Elementary School, students, teachers and parents saluted the best and brightest young minds. After the ceremony, Anniston principal Vicki Williams heard about the governor's funding announcement.

"Every little bit helps," she said.

What the governor's education budget proposal does not do is fully fund Mississippi's Adequate Education Program. Without that money, school districts must cut costs.

"Here in Gulfport, we've cut everything we can to help on our end of it," Williams said. "We need every bit, everything we can."

Lawmakers who met with the governor about his new budget want teachers to know their cries are being heard. But other agencies are crying as well. So whenever they get called back to Jackson for a special session to adopt a budget, they must prioritize who gets what first.

"I feel that our teachers were promised a pay raise and now we're going to deliver what was promised to them," Biloxi Representative Randall Patterson said.

The governor echoed that sentiment.

"My view is that we must put teachers first and the focus should be on the classrooms and in schools,'' Barbour said.

Barbour said Mississippi's $100 million settlement with MCI over tax law violations would not be used for recurring funds. He wants $50 million of the settlement to go to the Mississippi Department of Transportation and $35 million to satisfy a loan guarantee on a defunct beef processing plant that was financed by the state.

"I'm adamantly against any of the MCI money being used for recurring expenses,'' Barbour said. "That's how we got into the hole we're in now.''