While Tonya Cook organized her first grade classroom, the Mississippi legislature made it easier for teachers like Ms. Cook to get the pay raise they were promised more than a year ago. "A pay raise would be nice," Cook said. "I don't see it coming. But it would be nice."
That skepticism was shared by second grade teacher Belinda Ellzey. "I don't believe that it's going to kick in," said Ellzey. "Teachers are deserving. Definitely. I mean we put in more hours than people realize."
To help teachers out, the legislature got rid of the pay raise provision that only allowed teacher salary increases if state revenues grew five percent. By eliminating that requirement, the state can move teacher salaries closer to the southeastern average.
Jerry Wilson is the physical education teacher at Anniston Avenue Elementary School. He said, "I'm going to teach regardless of what it is because I love what I do. And I think all teachers, dedicated, feel the same way. But the money does help, we're not going to turn it down."
Teachers spend hundreds of dollars a year on decorations for their classrooms. The pay raise will offset some of that cost. "For the most part it's worth it," Cook said, "because in the end, you have a great product, a wonderful end result. The growth of a child, you can't be any better than that."
Two weeks from now, Gulfport teachers will get another chance to help children grow. They'll open the 2001-2002 school year with the guarantee that the state will reward their teaching efforts.