On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted to fund MAEP and other educational programs. The kicker was a 3% raise for K-12 teachers and what comes out to be around a 4% raise for teacher assistants.
It was a contentious debate with two differing viewpoints on the subject of the teacher pay raise. The question was not whether teachers deserve a pay raise; the dividing point was whether we should approve a 3% raise now before we have a handle on how other programs will be funded. One school of thought was the idea that the House should wait to see how revenues come in before allocating money to a 3% raise that will cost the state around $60 million annually. With the Medicaid funding crisis looming, this side thought waiting to see how other funding problems shake out would the responsible thing to do. It was a valid point.
However, the other side of the coin was the perspective that by voting on it now, the House would be proactive in setting its priorities. A line would be drawn in the sand to state that above all else, we would continue to make a further investment in our human capital. This is the viewpoint I held, and thus, I voted for the pay raise and the entire education appropriation.
I believe education is the priority for Hattiesburg, South Mississippi and the entire state. I did not run on merely funding MAEP. I campaigned on turning our educational pursuits toward excellence, not simply adequacy. I campaigned on vocational training, early childhood education and paying our teachers what they're worth. I campaigned on continuing state support of the DuBard School. All of these were funded with Thursday's House bill, and that's why I voted for it.