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Teachers, public education needs continued investment

This week we learned the Legislature approved a pay raise for teachers in Mississippi that will cost $18.5 million more than was first estimated.

And, just like every other glitch, typo or error, social media and pundits came out of their shoes passing blame, making jokes and making a mockery of the state leadership — some of which is deserved.

But, one of the things lost in the witty banter is the fact that teachers in Mississippi are well worth the raise, even with the higher price tag, and the impact they make on the lives of our children, and thus the future of our state, is woefully under appreciated.

If we were to hold the belief that a person’s pay should reflect they role they have in a business — or the impact they have on society — then there would be an argument that those who teach, work in public safety and those who serve in the military are all underpaid. That said, the world we live in is not fair, and those who work in those professions — rather, serve in those professions — will never get the compensation they truly deserve.

But, what they should expect, and what we as citizens should expect, is that they get what is fair. They deserve a fair wage to support their families as they protect, serve and help teach our families and our children.

Mississippi has long failed to support public education to the level that it deserves. One gimmick used to advocate for gambling in Mississippi is that tax revenues from gambling would give Mississippi a world-class educational system.

Those dollars never made their way to educational funds as other interest groups and black holes of the state’s budget sucked up much of the funds.

But in spite of past broken promises the Legislature did step up to provide a raise that was a long time coming and well deserved. It is a shame that it took so much wrangling and political maneuvering for the Legislature to do what is right.

The Legislature’s work is not done yet when it comes to public education. Not by a long shot.

This investment in teachers must be followed by continued and increased support of education in Mississippi.

In Vicksburg and Warren County, residents overwhelmingly supported a bond issue to pay for new schools and upgrades to existing facilities that were decades behind. And, the continued investment of private dollars into the Leader in Me Program has been an investment that has provided tremendous returns in improved learning environments and classroom results.

Don’t let the calculation error and the jokes about such a mistake take away from the fact that our teachers deserve the money and our thanks and support for what they mean to our Mississippi and our children’s Mississippi.