Mississippi has the country's highest paid state superintendent of education.
At around $335,000 annually, Dr. Carey Wright makes nearly twice as much as the national average of $174,000. Such has been alarming for many Mississippians as the state has one of the lowest per-pupil spending. In recent years, Mississippi's public education has made significant gains, but about two dozen state lawmakers believe Wright still gets paid to much.
As legislators move quickly ahead of Monday's first deadline to file general bills, Rep. Nick Bain (R-Corinth) is one of those. He's filled a bill to align the salary of the state superintendent of public education to no more than 150% of the governor's salary of around $122,000.
"A paramount concern of mine has always been cutting administrative costs and getting more money to our classrooms in Mississippi," Bain told the Daily Corinthian. "I filed this bill to cut the state superintendent of education's salary with the difference between the current salary and the new will be deposited in the Classroom Supply fund."
Bain said he has the support of more than 20 other legislators.
Rep. Lester "Bubba" Carpenter (R-Burnsville) said he gets complaints often about the superintendent's high salary.
"It's really troubling when our teachers in this state get paid so little to see the leader of education in Mississippi makes so much more than even our governor," said Carpenter. "If this bill becomes law it would put that position's salary closer to the national average of around $170,000."
The state superintendent's pay increased after a late 1990s law that required that position's salary be 90 percent higher than the state's higher education commissioner. That law was tossed in 2011, but the state's board, which now sets the salary, hasn't significantly reduced the state chief's salary. Wright's predecessor made $307,000.
In other state news, Sen. Rita Potts Parks (R-Corinth) said the final week before the session's first major deadline has been a busy one.
One measure she's passionate about is Senate Bill 2402 that seeks to reduce the period of time within which all benefits are payable to the consumer under a pharmacy benefit.
Parks said the bill has independent pharmacies in mind and "it will set boundaries for the PBMs (pharmacy benefit managers) that for so long have been allowed to operate at will."
The local lawmaker said some extra attention is also being placed on possible legislation to change the state flag.
This includes multiple bills from one that would establish a commission to recommend new flag options to the legislature to a bill that would allow voters to vote for or against the Confederate emblem in the Nov. 3 election. Another bill would require Mississippi universities to fly the flag.
There's also a bill that would simply change the current flag to the Stennis flag, a red, white and blue bar flag that features 19 stars in a circle around a larger center star and represents Mississippi as the 20th state to join the Union in 1817.
(Capitol Connections by Daily Corinthian staff writer Zack Steen will appear throughout the 2020 Mississippi Legislative session and include news and notes from local lawmakers.)