I am on the House Education Committee which is why I have more information on the State Department of Education than some of the other departments. Other departments do have concerns of their own. However, today I am again going to address another issue in the MDE.

Superintendent Wright gave me the number of people in the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) working in Jackson. There are 495 employees. With 136 school districts statewide, that translates to almost four employees in Jackson per school district. That seems high considering the number of employees that are in our school district offices. This number is subject to change.

I asked Superintendent Wright how many contactors the MDE retain on individual contracts. Her answer was 325. That is more than two per school district. I was not told the average contract cost. I was informed that most of the contractors consist of ex-district superintendents and ex-employees from MDE.

Two things that concern me are: (1)) the ex-employees were drawing PERS and not contributing anything from their contract back to PERS and (2) that many teachers are looking to supplement their income. Let me explain these concerns.

The first concern is about ex-employees working for a department from which they retired. They continue to draw their PERS check and receive state money through a contract. I cannot see how this will not hurt the state retirement program. I know it is legal, currently, but should it be? From what I have gathered, this is not the only agency or department that uses ex-employees as contractors. This seems to be taking jobs away from people who could work for the state and contribute to PERS. The makeup of the contractor pool would require a higher than normal retirement, therefore the drain is very substantial.

Secondly, I am concerned about teachers. Let’s think outside the box for just a second. I hear of many choosing additional employment when school is in recess. Why not let teachers have a secondary contract to fill the jobs currently being done by contractors? Then, allow them to pay into PERS from the secondary contract. This would allow them to get a greater high four years for retirement purposes, plus supplement their salary. To make sure they are given out evenly, split the number of contracts by the number of school districts. Smaller districts could get two and larger districts get three. Then, school boards could make sure that all willing teachers get their share of contracts.

The first question should be, “Are all these contracts and employees in MDE necessary?” The management of state funds must become a priority. If savings can be found within the MDE, those funds should go to the classrooms of our state.

Thank you, District 19, for allowing me to serve you. Please contact me by phone 662-231-0133 or email landtree@nexband.com.

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