Leader of Mississippi's largest teachers union seeks further pay raises, opposes merit pay

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VERONA, Mississippi — The head of Mississippi's largest teachers union is reiterating the group's push to raise starting salaries for public school teachers to $40,000 a year.

Joyce Helmick, the president of the Mississippi Association of Educators, told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (http://bit.ly/1orMzap) Monday that her group wants to add $2,500 a year to starting salaries.

She made the remarks in an interview before reading to students at Verona Elementary School. She is touring about a dozen schools throughout the state to promote MAE's second "Be a Champion" reading contest.

Mississippi lawmakers approved a $2,500 raise over the next two years. That will increase starting pay to $34,390 next July. Ultimately, MAE's goal is a 5.5 percent annual increase over five years to reach $40,386 by 2019.

That total would make Mississippi more competitive with other states and would keep teaching starting salaries more competitive with other professions, said Helmick, who also pushed for raises last year.

"We are trying to get our teachers to the southeastern average for starting teachers because we don't want to lose our teachers to other states and to other occupations," Helmick said.

Lawmakers also made teachers eligible for merit payments in 2016-2017. Helmick says she opposes using student test scores to set teacher pay under the merit plan. She says testing should be used to determine students' needs, not teachers' pay.

"I want to see the toxic testing removed," Helmick said. "I don't want to see teachers paid based on student test scores."

MAE has roughly 8,000 members in a state with about 34,000 teachers, although its members also include administrators, support staff and other educators. It offers professional training, legislative advocacy and legal services.

It also hosts the "Be a Champion" contest, which will give students an opportunity to win tickets to the Egg Bowl. It is open to kindergarten to eighth-grade public-school students.


Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com

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