JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Teachers in the Jackson County School District are fighting for fair compensation. The district touts an "A" rating from the Mississippi Department of Education, but the last pay raise for educators was $500 in 2008.
That's why teachers took their case to Monday night's school board meeting in Vancleave. For these Jackson County School District teachers, their pay is a sensitive subject.
Last May, the school board's budget included a proposed annual pay raise of $1,000 for its certified employees, like teachers or counselors, and a 2.15 percent raise to non-certified employees. This includes any non-degree holding workers.
However, in the Oct. 16 agenda, the proposed increase was less than $520 to certified employees. The teachers say what they want is simple.
"Give us the May budget raise in the upcoming board meeting," said Lindey Jones, a teacher at East Central High.
Last spring, teachers said Jackson County School District Superintendent Dr. Barry Amacker told them he was working on a raise.
"He told us don't go out and buy a new car. It was not promised, but it was implied that we would be getting a raise," said Amanda Knight, a teacher at East Central Upper Elementary.
Their goal is to give students the best education possible.
"'A' rating means we are the highest rating that you could possibly have in the State of Mississippi, and that's based on accountability with test scores," said East Central guidance counselor Renee Thigpen.
The raise teachers want won't come to their salaries. It would instead come to what's called a supplement, additional money that will coincide with their salary. The school board determines their supplement.
During the Oct. 16 meeting, the board tabled the vote on raising the supplement.
"They should have given the teachers raises. It cost them to buy a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread as it does anybody else," said Jackson County resident Carroll Clifford.
According to Jackson County School District board member Kenneth Fountain, the board wants to review the supplements at other school district's in the six coastal counties before making a decision.
Amacker reportedly indicated he would propose an increase to their local supplement.
"Speaking of the local supplement, the last increase was in 2008 for $500. However, we are one of the few districts that have a step increase every year to the local supplement, and we have been able to continue those despite tough times," Amacker said. "I don't want to start a fuss with the legislature, but as to the why, we have been underfunded $40 million over the past several years. It has taken every dime of MAEP plus another million out of local revenue just to pay teacher salaries and benefits."
Amacker said he did set aside revenue in the proposed budget for that purpose. The board said the Ocean Springs School District, which also has a high rating, has a supplement that is less than Jackson County's. The teachers left the meeting chanting, "We want the pay allotted in May."
Teachers said they are also supposed to be getting a bonus from the state for having an "A" rating called School Recognition Pay. They still have not received this bonus. They also asked one stipulation to that pay is that it's not consider part of the school district's increase in supplement.