In Mississippi, legislators serve only a few months a year, so they’ve always held lots of different jobs in addition to public service. Many are lawyers and farmers. Several own businesses. But very few of them, even those who serve on the Senate and House Education Committees, have been public school educators. This is likely because of a Mississippi regulation that has kept retired state employees, like Sen. Sollie Norwood from Jackson, from withdrawing their retirement funds when they serve in the Mississippi Legislature—a point he challenged in a letter to State Attorney General Jim Hood.
But, with the publishing of a recent opinion by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, change is on the way that could possibly transform the political landscape of Mississippi.
“Based upon our review of the applicable revisions of the Mississippi Code and the regulations of PERS (Public Employment Retirement System of Mississippi), this office has concluded that a PERS Retiree who serves as a Senator or a Representative in the Mississippi Legislature does not forfeit his or her PERS retirement benefits,” part of the opinion from the State AG’s office reads in response to Norwood’s letter.
In short? Serving in public office won’t keep you out of your retirement check. Knocking down that financial barrier could help over 300,000 retired state employees, including educators, offer their experience and expertise as statewide lawmakers, and continue to earn the retirement savings set aside during their lifetime of hard work.
No one knows our classrooms better than the teachers who labor inside of them every day. And teachers are invested in the political process; hundreds of them ran for office this year. Who better to advocate for Mississippi’s children, including full funding of education, than those with decades of experience?
Ours To Change Mississippi supports giving educators a significant voice in the conversations about public education in our state. To stay up-to-date about how you can show support, scroll down to sign up for our email list.