JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - Governor Tate Reeves took to social media on Tuesday to shed light on an education bill, which could mean potential pay cuts for over Mississippi 20,000 teachers.
Now, Senator Brice Wiggins is pushing back and expressing his views that January is the ideal time to take a closer look at the issue, rather than at the start of the 2020 school year. Moreover, “a veto is throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” Wiggins said in a Facebook post.
“Gov. Reeves is right: we as a state have made great strides in education and we must continue on that path,” Wiggins said. “Education policy works when there’s data and science behind it, like our ELC program. January is the time to look at that.”
If a new budget— shifting money away from teachers recognized for their hard work— gets signed it to law, it will go in the pockets of the district’s office, Reeves said.
He pointed out that “the education bill has a major problem. The legislature cut a teacher pay program by over $26 million—a massive cut. It’s the program that rewards teachers in schools that are rated A, B, or improve a letter grade. It is our only performance reward program in the state. And it works.”
Reeves explained that he does not approve of this bill because he thinks the School Recognition program is a fundamental reason why Mississippi schools are improving. He also doesn’t believe teachers should have their pay docked, especially if they were acknowledged for their work ethic.
“Bottom line - over 20,000 teachers will get less pay than they earned if we allow this budget to become law. Many of them will see pay cuts of a couple thousand dollars. We were supposed to be giving them raises! It makes no sense to me!” Reeves said.
Wiggins addressed the significance of the School Recognition program and mentioned he voted for it when the program was introduced. However, this is a different time now that COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise, and as Wiggins put it “everyone took a hit.”
“Because of COVID, all agencies took an across the board cut of around 5%. Funding the state budget was a challenge this year and not where anyone wanted it to be... But let’s be honest, there were complaints, mainly from the ‘education establishment’ and teachers themselves, until the kinks got worked out; some still don’t like it but have accepted it. I also voted to revamp the MAEP formula which, in my opinion, would have gone a long way to improve the issue because the current formula hampers getting $ to the classroom; alas, that failed by a few votes,” Wiggins said.
This reasoning, Wiggins, is not enough to veto the bill; however, his main point was to hold off until months into the fiscal year.
“The funding for the School Recognition Program is/was just one part of the bill funding operations of our k-12 education system in the state. So, with a veto our schools and educators will be operating without a budget and therefore without, right as schools are getting ready to start in a month,” he said.
Reeves also noted in his Facebook post that the number of bills he has to review in a short amount of time saying, " I’ve reviewed 45 bills that were due yesterday. 65 that are due today. And started on another 70 that are due tomorrow. It really limits our ability to properly review laws when the legislature only gives us five days to review. But we owe it to you to read every bill. Thoroughly. And so we will.”
Reeves concluded his post expressing the hope that teacher pay won’t be cut, and if it gets vetoed, he hopes the bill will be fixed accordingly.