The state is assuring gifted, vocational and special education teachers that they will get a $1,500 raise after a mistake by the Mississippi Department of Education initially left them in doubt.
The Legislature backed a $1,500 pay raise for teachers across the state to get their salaries closer to the Southeastern average that was signed by Gov. Phil Bryant last week, and the Mississippi Department of Education used an information system to identify the teachers by course code. But the system used left out several types of teachers, leaving a deficit for each school district.
For Columbia it was a $57,000 error, or the equivalent of 38 teachers.
School districts throughout the state were scrambling Wednesday to figure out if they were going to have to make up that difference. By the end of the work day, however, that concern was mostly alleviated.
“They are admitting that there has been a mistake, and they’re going to try to work to fix it,” Columbia Superintendent Jason Harris said Wednesday afternoon.
The state education department sent emails to all of the school districts saying it would be sending a form to each of them to fill out with how much money they are short, according to Harris. The MDE released a statement Wednesday evening, saying it was going to make sure the error is rectified and the $12 million statewide shortfall would not fall on the school districts.
State Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, said the mistake was solely on MDE’s end and that the Legislature does have the funds to make sure every teacher gets the raise.
“It can be taken care of. It’s not like people aren’t going to get paid,” the senator for Marion County said. “What may happen is MDE may use other funds to cover what’s needed until we go back in January (2020), and then we can do a deficit appropriation and replace those funds. There’s a couple of different ways of getting the money to them. We’re going to make sure they get paid.”
She said the first set of numbers the MDE gave the Legislature seemed more accurate than the second revised set and that they trusted MDE had provided correct information.
The Education Department said in its statement that it had calculated the number of positions based on the code in the Mississippi Student Information System that referenced MAEP-only funded teachers and teacher assistants.
“Upon further review, it was determined there were additional teachers who were eligible for the raise who were not coded in MSIS as MAEP-funded positions,” it said. “The MDE appreciates districts bringing this issue to our attention, and we will work swiftly with each district to verify the number of MAEP-funded teachers and teacher assistants. We will provide this information to lawmakers and work with them to obtain the additional funding for the pay raise.
“The MDE is committed to ensuring that all teachers and teacher assistants receive their pay raises in the 2019-20 school year.”