Mississippi State Rep. Steve Holland "cried with joy" as he watched his grandson participate in a school program at Tupelo's Joyner Elementary School a few weeks ago. The affection quickly subsided once the program was over, though, as teachers besieged the local Democrat over a teacher pay-raise bill that increases salaries by $1,000 over a two-year period.
"Are you kidding me? $500 a year?" one educator educator said, incredulous over a raise that amounts to just an extra $41.67 each month. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
"That ain't my idea," the folksy representative replied. "Not at all."
Holland recounted that story as he stood in front of his colleagues in the House Monday, holding his smartphone up to the mic to let them hear the sounds of his grandson and his classmates singing. Then, he asked them to amend the bill to increase the pay raise to $4,000 over two years, starting in 2020.
Holland proposed that amendment alongside Rep. Orlando Paden, D-Clarksdale, and Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville.
"Now I'm telling you, there's no group of people in this state more important than the professional educators that teach our children and grandchildren," he said. "So bah humbug on $500 a year. You ought to be ashamed if you vote for it. So let's start with the high road."
He persuaded his colleagues. The House adopted the amendment on a bipartisan 55-50 vote, including 20 Republicans who broke with their party to vote for it. The amended bill then passed with support from 50 Republicans who had voted against the amendment. Only two legislators voted against the amended bill: Rep. Joel Bomgar, R-Madison, and Rep. Dana Criswell, R-Olive Branch.
The amendment does not necessarily mean the final bill will include such a significant pay increase. Holland admitted that negotiations with the Senate could result in a