EDITORIAL/Really reforming education
Wednesday, February 5, 2014 12:00 AM
While the Mississippi House deserves high marks for its teacher pay proposal that's tied to performance benchmarks and state revenue growth, the Legislature has yet to seriously address education reform that would consolidate districts and shrink bloated bureaucracies.
Still, the proposal, passed Monday by the House Education Committee giving teachers a pay increase of up to $4,250 over four years, is a good-faith effort in moving Mississippi teachers toward more competitive salaries.
Under the proposal, teachers with fewer than 5 years of teaching experience automatically get increases as follows:
$1,000 increase January 1, 2015
$500 increase July 1, 2015
$1,350 increase July 1, 2016, contingent upon 3% growth in the state's economy (economists project 4.4% growth)
$1,400 increase July 1, 2017, contingent upon 3% growth in the state's economy (economists project 4.1% growth)
Teachers with five or more years of experience will have to meet three of 22 benchmarks to be eligible for the raises outlined above, and that hasn't set very well with some educators who believe the raises should just be across-the-board.
Just about anybody with a pulse ought to be able to meet three of the 22 or they shouldn't be near a classroom.
Good teachers deserve raises, but where is the Legislature going to find $180 million (estimated cost through fiscal 2018) when, among other things, the Public Employment Retirement System (PERS) is spiraling toward insolvency?
Mississippi spends about 60 cents of every dollar on education. Simply throwing more money hasn't fixed anything yet. Pay raises alone won't fix Mississippi's problems.
We wonder, given the postmodern and revisionist thinking so prevalent now, if some schools haven't simply evolved into indoctrination camps where Thanksgiving becomes victimhood or at best is a happy story about a feast between the Pilgrims and the Indians.
The first Thanksgiving was actually celebrated at Berkeley Hundred Plantation in Virginia on Dec. 4, 1619, where it was written: "We ordain that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."
Textbooks won't mention that the Pilgrims were Christian separatists who fled England (via Holland) under the rule of King James or that they remained on the Mayflower the Sunday morning they landed and worshiped God.
Mississippi schools, overall, no longer teach rudimentary skills such as math, science, reading and composition - and that's the problem.
While Republican leaders can quickly gin up support for displaying "In God We Trust" or easily pass laws spurred by non-existant threats, education struggles, teachers struggle, students struggle and ultimately the state struggles because so many of our people don't have the necessary skills and they turn to government assistance.
Again, now that the teachers have everybody's attention, let's elevate the discussion to meaningful education reform.
There are 82 counties and 152 school districts. That's152 superintendent salaries. Some savings can be realized there alone.
What about obtaining higher scores?
With the proper reforms, monies would be available to pay Mississippi teachers better, but does the Legislature have the will to step onto that third rail.