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Hosemann and Hughes say teacher pay raise is insufficient

March 30, 2019
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Delbert Hosemann, a Republican candidate for Mississippi lieutenant governor and the current secretary of state, speaks at a Mississippi Professional Educators conference in Jackson, Miss., Saturday, March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Emily Wagster Pettus)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two candidates in the open race for Mississippi lieutenant governor say the $1,500 teacher pay raise approved by legislators is too small.

Republican Delbert Hosemann of Jackson and Democrat Jay Hughes of Oxford spoke to hundreds of teachers Saturday at a Mississippi Professional Educators conference in Jackson.

Hosemann, the third-term secretary of state, said Mississippi has lower teacher salaries than other states because lawmakers have not made a continuing commitment to increase the compensation.

“Teacher pay raise is similar to a credit card for the state,” Hosemann said. “Every month, we didn’t pay the credit card. So, then we get down to the fourth year and all of a sudden we don’t have enough — ‘enough,’ quote, ‘enough’ — to pay the credit card, so we have to pay only part of it. Every year that I’m the lieutenant governor for the state of Mississippi, we’re going to have teacher pay raises.”

Hughes is a first-term state representative and voted Thursday for the teacher pay raise, although he said it’s insufficient.

“Teacher pay raise — Secretary Hosemann and I agree. You deserve more,” Hughes said Saturday. He also said legislators need to try harder to understand what teachers experience on the job.

“I’d like to pass a law that the chairman and the vice chairman of the education committees in the House and Senate have to go spend one full day in a classroom shadowing a teacher,” Hughes said.

If Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signs the teacher pay bill , the raise will take effect July 1.

The Mississippi Department of Education says teachers in the state are paid an average of $44,659, which is less than the Southeastern average of about $51,000.

Vivian Jackson, a special education teacher at William J. Berry Elementary School in Heidelberg, said too few politicians understand the kind of support that educators need to do their jobs. Speaking of the $1,500 raise, Jackson said: “It was just to put you in another tax bracket. You’ll be paying more in taxes, but in the end, your take-home pay is not going to be that much more.”

The current lieutenant governor, Republican Tate Reeves, is running to try to succeed Bryant, who could not seek a third term as governor. The lieutenant governor influences issues such as teacher pay by presiding over the 52-member state Senate, appointing Senate committee leaders and assigning bills to Senate committees for consideration.

Hughes is the only Democrat running for lieutenant governor. Hosemann faces political newcomer Shane Quick in the Aug. 6 Republican primary. The general election is Nov. 5.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .