Mississippi Gov. Bill Allain (D), in the midst of the state's first wildcat teachers strike, ventured into hostile territory yesterday when he stopped by the educators' annual convention to deliver a simple message: expect no pay raise that will require a tax increase.
Meanwhile, Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Paul Alexander issued a preliminary injunction barring strikes in Jackson public schools and 13 other districts where teachers have not walked out. He agreed to delay until next week a hearing at which he is expected to declare the strike illegal.
At the end of his short address, Allain received, in the words of the teachers' spokesman, "a standing two minutes of silence" from the 1,500 teachers, who earn an average of $15,971 a year, against the national average of about $22,000.
"We're pleased, of course, that we didn't have a riot in there," said George Brown, spokesman for the Mississippi Association of Educators.
State legislative conferees spent Sunday and most of yesterday behind closed doors searching for a compromise between the $7,000 increase demanded by the teachers and the $1,500 increase that Allain says is all the state can afford.
Most schools in the state are closed for spring vacation this week.