Mississippi teacher pay raise bill headed to Governor Reeves

Published 2:47 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2022

A bill headed to Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves would give the state’s public school teachers their largest pay raise in years.

The House voted 118-4 Tuesday to pass the final version of House Bill 530. Senators voted 51-0 to pass it Thursday.

“We’re the House and the Senate could come [together] to what I think will help retain the teachers that we have in our system,” said Republican Senator Nicole Boyd. “We are losing teachers and we hope this pay raise will help provide retention and get teachers to stay in the classroom.”

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The Mississippi Department of Education reported in December 2021 a shortage of 3,036 certified teachers vacancies and 5,503 educator workforce vacancies across the state. Of those certified teacher vacancies, 276 vacancies are located within Mississippi’s first congressional district including Lafayette, Panola and Lee counties. View the MDE’s full report here.

The bill would provide an average increase of about $5,100 — a jump of more than 10% over teachers’ current pay. Reeves, a Republican, has said he supports increasing teacher pay as a way to attract and retain classroom professionals.

Mississippi has long had some of the lowest teachers salaries in the nation.

Nancy Loome is executive director of the Parents’ Campaign, a group that lobbies for policies that boost public schools.

In a mass email Tuesday, she praised lawmakers for sending the teacher pay raise bill to the governor. She also and urged people to call members of the House and Senate and ask them to defeat bills that would reduce or eliminate the state income tax. Loome wrote that tax cuts could “devastate” public schools.

“It is absolutely critical that we not allow income tax cuts to wreck the school district budgets that are essential to pay the higher teacher salaries,” Loome wrote.

The average teacher salary in Mississippi during the 2019-20 academic year was $46,843, according to the Southern Regional Education Board. That lagged behind the average of $55,205 for teachers in the 16 states of the regional organization. The national average was $64,133.

Under the bill, teachers’ base pay would increase by a few hundred dollars most years, with larger increases with every fifth year of experience and a more substantial bump at 25 years.

A beginning Mississippi teacher with a bachelor’s degree currently receives a $37,000 salary from the state, and the local school district can provide a supplement. Under the bill, the base pay from the state would be $41,500. Teachers with higher degrees and more experience are paid more.

Teachers’ assistants would receive a $2,000 increase over two years, taking their pay from $15,000 to $17,000.

To Boyd, this pay increase is a good start at making sure teachers are well-compensated and well-appreciated. Teachers spend more time with students than their parents and go the extra step to make sure a child learns.

“We have worked with teachers across the state to make sure that this plan is something that’s doable,” she said. “Their input has been critical at different points in the process. We feel like based on what teachers have told us and students that are in teacher-preparation programs in college that this should be a substantial step in making sure we compensate our teachers properly.”