Legislative Update – The START Act
This past Thursday, I joined my House colleagues in announcing that the Mississippi House of Representatives had filed a signed conference report on House Bill 530, the House’s historic teacher pay raise bill. House Bill 530, the Strategically Accelerating the Recruitment and Retention of Teachers (START) Act of 2022, was passed out of the House in January during the second week of this legislative session and sent immediately to the Senate for their consideration. House Education Chairman Richard Bennett, along with Representatives Kent McCarty, Kevin Felsher, and Jansen Owen, worked for over a year developing a teacher pay plan targeted at tackling Mississippi’s teacher shortage while providing a historic investment in our state’s public education.
Providing Mississippi teachers with a meaningful pay raise and addressing our critical teacher shortage has been a top priority of the House. Using feedback from educators, school superintendents, and education policy groups, we developed the START Act with those two issues in mind. As it was initially introduced, the START boosted started teacher pay well above the Southeastern and National averages and gave Mississippi the highest starting teacher pay in the entire region. The legislation also provided an across-the-board raise of at least $4,000 to every single Mississippi teacher, as well as $2,000 to all assistant teachers. Finally, the raises in the START Act were fully phased in during the 2022-2023 school year. We believe that we have the money to provide this much-needed investment now and that spreading the raise over multiple years is neither necessary nor wise. As House Bill 530 has moved through the legislative process, it has undergone a few changes. With additional feedback from educators across the state and by incorporating key components from the Senate’s original pay raise proposal, we believe we have made the bill even stronger than our original proposal. The revised START Act within our conference report includes an average pay raise of $4,850 – higher than both the original House bill and the Senate’s proposal. In addition, to make the pay scale more rewarding to teachers throughout their careers, we’ve added automatic step increases each year and added more significant step increases every 5th year for all teachers. Even with these changes, the START Act maintains its original goal of lifting our starting teacher salary above BOTH the Southeastern and National starting averages, thus making us competitive with our neighboring states to ensure that we retain the teachers we have while also recruiting additional talent to our state.
The Mississippi House of Representatives quickly filed this conference report last Thursday, weeks ahead of the deadline, to ensure that Mississippi’s teachers receive this well-deserved pay increase this year, on July 1, as they begin preparing for the 2022-2023 school year. We believe that report we have filed will be transformative for teachers and, most importantly, our students. This report incorporates the best features of both the House and Senate plans, and we urge the Senate-designated conferees to not delay signing the conference report for HB 530. With their signatures, the bill can then go to the Governor for his signature so that it can be implemented this year.
You can find additional information for House Bill 530, the START Act, including a detailed pay scale at philipgunn.org.