In an election year, pay raises are always good politics, if not good policy.
With only a few weeks left in the 2019 session, Mississippi’s Legislature seems poised to raise the pay for two groups of state employees while an effort to raise the pay of another group has fallen by the wayside.
While legislation for an across-the-board pay raise for state employees quietly died in committee, there are two pieces of legislation that remain alive to raise the pay for K-12 teacher and assistant teachers and well as the pay for county supervisors and circuit clerks.
Where teachers are concerned, how much that raise will be has yet to be resolved. A Senate bill that would raise teacher pay by $1,000 over two years was amended by the House to make it a $4,000 raise. A $1,000 raise for assistant teachers, who currently make just $12,500, remains part of the bill.
The legislation now goes to committee and it’s likely that the legislators will “split the baby” and offer a raise somewhere between those two proposed amounts.
Less uncertain is a raise for county supervisors and it’s an eye-opener, when you consider how hotly debated the teacher pay raise has been.
Under the legislation, supervisors will get more than a 20 percent raise – in Lowndes County, it would be an increase from $47,500 to $57,500. Although supervisors are paid by the county, the Legislature sets the pay rate.
That’s a heckuva bump for a part-time job – good work if you can get it, as the saying goes.
Without throwing shade on supervisors and the importance of the work they do, that kind of raise seems entirely inappropriate, especially when compared to the work our teachers perform.
Supervisor pay in Mississippi also dwarfs the pay of city aldermen and councilmen – by as much as $40,000 in some areas if the supervisors get their raise.
Yet county government is far less complex than municipal government. Typically county supervisors provide oversight to only a few county departments – roads, sheriff’s departments and county courts.
Supervisors typically meet two to three times a month.
It would be guess-work to try to determine how much time supervisors devote to their duties, but it’s hard to imagine anything resembling a 40-hour work week.
Meanwhile, our teachers are working full-time, devoting countless hours at night and on weekends, work for which they are not compensated.
The average Mississippi teacher makes about $44,000. Assuming the Legislature is “generous” and provides the full $4,000 raise, that would still mean the part-time pay for county supervisors would exceed the full-time pay of our teachers by $9,500.
Can anyone truthfully say this makes any sense at all?
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.