Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Speaker Gunn Talks Out of Both Sides

The issue of teacher pay raises is at the front of the state's newspapers this week. Educators from across the state have descended upon their state Capitol to express their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble while advocating for salary increases which have not been granted in many years.

House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) has a different view of the teacher assemblage.
“We can’t get into political grandstanding,” Gunn said. “What that will do is jeopardize a raise, if they come in with some outrageous amount, it’s not going to happen.”
Gunn seems to think rallies for this cause are political theatre. Not so fast, Mr. Speaker.
“The Democrats haven’t said a word about a pay raise, all of the off season while we were out of session, nothing,” Gunn said. “Now all of a sudden they want to jump on the bandwagon … We in the House are going to do everything we can to get them as much of a raise as we can afford.”
First, if anyone is jumping on a wagon it is Gunn. You might get whiplash watching Gunn flip flop all over the place. He wanted to take sole credit for this issue and has now painted himself into a very tight corner.

Second, Democrats led the effort to pass a teacher pay raise during last year's Regular Session, with the assistance of some House Republicans, but Gunn and most of his Republican supporters voted to kill that idea. The bill in question later died because of Republican infighting. See the 2013 House vote on teacher pay raises for yourself.

During Monday's press conference to address teacher pay raises, Speaker Gunn was nowhere to be seen in the Capitol Rotunda while Democratic legislators again stood beside our state's teachers. For someone who has broken rank with Governor Bryant and Lt. Governor Reeves to advocate for teacher pay raises, it is bizarre that Gunn decided to hide in his office rather than address the people on an issue he allegedly supports!

Gunn is suddenly trying to give himself political cover by shifting blame to his House Democratic colleagues should teacher pay raises fail to pass. He does himself no favors by suggesting that having teachers present in the Capitol expressing their freedom of speech somehow jeopardizes the issue. Mississippi's teachers work hard enough as it is without having to worry about the Speaker of the House talking out of both sides about this issue.

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