Reeves says education agenda includes teacher pay raises

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves released his education proposals Wednesday, saying he has a four-year plan to increase Mississippi teacher salaries if he's elected governor.

He said the plan will not require a tax increase because Mississippi's economy is good and state tax collections are exceeding expectations.

Reeves discussed his proposals at a news conference in Gulfport.

"We've crunched the numbers and determined exactly how we can ensure that our teachers make much more in the coming years," Reeves said. "I don't traffic in false promises of unlimited free money."

On Thursday, Reeves and the Democratic nominee for governor, Attorney General Jim Hood, are debating each other for the first time. The one-hour debate begins at 7 p.m. at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg and is being carried on statewide TV and radio.

Hood released his education proposals, including a teacher pay raise plan, in mid-September. Hood said Wednesday that teachers have struggled with low pay during Reeves' time as lieutenant governor.

"We're at an urgent crossroads for education in Mississippi," Hood said. "We've underfunded our schools. Teachers are buying supplies out of their own pockets, and they're making less than they were in 2012."

Although teachers have received raises, including one this year, Hood said their paychecks have less spending power because of inflation.

Reeves proposes increasing state spending from the current $12 million to $24 million for teachers' classroom supplies.

He said he wants to increase teacher pay by $4,200 over four years: $1,500 in the first year, $1,000 in the second, $1,000 in the third and $800 in the fourth. He said the goal is to hit the Southeastern average for teacher pay, which currently is just over $47,000.

Reeves also proposes increasing the supplement for teachers who meet rigorous standards to earn national board certification. Mississippi's current supplement is $6,000 a year, and his plan would increase that to $10,000.

Hood calls for a $3,000 boost in teacher pay over two years, saying the $1,500 provided by lawmakers this year is insufficient. Using numbers from this year, that would cost more than $150 million. Hood would go further than that, realigning yearly increases for experience so educators would get a 2% boost for each year they teach up to 25, and then a 5% yearly boost for years 26 through 35.

The election is Nov. 5.

Two candidates running low-budget campaigns are also running for governor. They are independent David Singletary and the Constitution Party's Bob Hickingbottom.

The current governor, Republican Phil Bryant, is wrapping up his second term and is barred by state law from seeking a third.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .


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