Governor Reeves critical of cut in funding to teacher incentive program

With the deadline to sign numerous bills looming, Governor Tate Reeves appears to be considering a veto of the education appropriations bill passed by the legislature.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, the governor stated that the bill cuts $26 million in funding for a teacher incentive program, which rewards educators in A & B-rated districts and districts that improve by a letter grade from the previous year.

According to Reeves, the cut in funding could result in up to 20,000 teachers earning less money.

“Our schools are improving in many areas. Our education attainment levels are up. And this School Recognition program is a big reason why,” the governor’s post partially reads. “Bottom line – over 20,000 teachers will get less pay than they earned if we allow this budget to become law. Many of them will see pay cuts of a couple thousand dollars. We were supposed to be giving them raises! It makes no sense to me!”

While the governor claims that the money was shifted from the incentive program to the general education budget, Senator Brice Wiggins disputes that claim. The Senator from Pascagoula stated that the cut in funding is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the state’s budget for the new fiscal year.

“The program has not been repealed. Because of COVID, all agencies took an across the board cut of around 5%. Funding the state budget was a challenge this year and not where anyone wanted it to be. In other words, everyone took a hit,” Wiggins’ post says.

The governor concluded his post by saying “If we have to veto, I’m hopeful they will do the right thing and fix it,” but Wiggins responded by saying that lawmakers can address this when they return in January as revenues will have likely improved by then.

If the governor does veto the bill, Wiggins stated that the Department of Education will be left without funding until then.

“The funding for the School Recognition Program is/was just one part of the bill funding operations of our k-12 education system in the state. So, with a veto our schools and educators will be operating without a budget and therefore without 💰, right as schools are getting ready to start in a month. In other words, a veto is throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” he wrote.

The legislature is slated to briefly reconvene in early October, and while they could return at any point between now and then, the recent positive COVID-19 cases throughout the capitol would complicate an urgent return.