Districts discuss impact of teacher pay raise mistake

Districts discuss impact of teacher pay raise mistake
Mississippi Department of Education miscalculation leads to issues with teacher pay raise funding (Source: WLBT)

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -A miscalculation left a multi-million dollar gap in funding for teacher pay raises. It didn’t take long for districts to notice something was off when the numbers came in from the Mississippi Department of Education.

“We were worried, what in the world?" explained Pearl School District Superintendent Raymond Morgigno. "Your first thing you start checking your stuff and make sure oh my gosh, did we have something entered wrong? Did we do something wrong? Then, of course, I guess the old saying is misery loves company. You start reaching out to other folks. And everybody started checking. I checked with a lot of our sister districts across the state and realized everybody was short.”

That calculation from MDE was based on the number from the Mississippi Student Information System database. The problem was that the database listed some special education, gifted and CTE positions as ineligible for state funds. They weren’t. But now the districts are left on the hold for that shortfall until they find a solution.

“$105-109 thousand dollars for us that we would just basically have to eat right now,” said Morgigno.

It’s more costly than just multiplying the number of teachers by the $15,000 dollar raise. Because the costs of their benefits go up with the raise, as well. The mistake has a bigger impact on larger districts like Madison County.

“268 teachers short of being funded and we’re 63 short on teacher assistants," said Madison County School District Finance Director Barry McKenzie. "We’ll be about 629 thousand short for that.”

They, too, say they’ll pull from reserves.

“We have funds set aside for just surprises or whatever comes up,” added McKenzie. “So, we’re fortunate that we’re able to do that. But not all districts are able to do that. We can cover that.”

The Governor has made it clear he will not call a special session.

“The taxpayers of Mississippi should not have to fund a special session because of a mistake made the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE). MDE should identify any other funds that can be used to pay for the raises not accounted for in the original funding, and the Legislature can refund that source through a deficit appropriation in January.”
Governor Phil Bryant

Therefore, it will likely be January,when the legislature returns, before districts can potentially receive state approval for those added funds.

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