Delbert Hosemann, the Republican secretary of state who is running for lieutenant governor, must have surprised his audience of educators Saturday when he made a promise to keep raising teacher pay.
“Every year that I’m the lieutenant governor for the state of Mississippi, we’re going to have teacher pay raises,” Hosemann said at a Mississippi Professional Educators conference in Jackson.
That left Hosemann’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Jay Hughes, to agree, and to add that the state needs a law requiring the leaders of the Legislature’s education committees to spend a day in a classroom following a teacher.
Teachers can tell it’s an election year when they’re so beloved. Lawmakers this year approved a $1,500 increase in the teacher pay scale. Typically the scale increases every election year, but now Hosemann says he can raise it annually. That’s a bold promise.
Hosemann is the favorite to win the election, and if he is the next lieutenant governor, he’ll have great power to influence this topic as president of the state Senate. But given the Legislature’s history with teacher pay, it may have been a mistake to pledge annual increases.
For starters, nobody knows how the Mississippi economy will perform in the coming years. There ought to be small but steady increases in tax revenue, but there’s no guarantee that will happen. Smaller revenue gains make teacher pay increases less likely.
Further, he’d have other state employees to think about. How many non-teachers see their pay scale increase every year?
Finally, Hosemann doesn’t know with whom he will be working should he be elected. What would a Gov. Tate Reeves, if he wins his race against Jim Hood, think about annual raises? And what would the House of Representatives think?
It would be nice if Hosemann turns out to be correct — that the state finds the money to increase teacher pay more often than once every four years. But the odds of that happening seem long.