The state with the lowest average teacher pay just passed a law giving a hefty pay raise to the state's teacher salaries.
Teachers around the United States are upset with the state of education. Educators have often felt the brunt of controversy, but as the war on public schools perpetually rages on, it’s teachers that are said to usually suffer the most. And like nearly every other field of work, teachers are upset over the lack of pay they receive to educate America’s young. Pay is also part of the reason teachers in droves have left the profession behind. One way to address the teacher shortage is to give them what they want, a pay raise. And that’s exactly what Mississippi did yesterday when a new law implementing a monumental pay raise was signed into law.
On Wednesday, Mississippi Republican Governor Tate Reeves signed House Bill 530 into law. The main purpose of this new legislation is to give teachers a hefty pay raise boost not seen in over a decade. Under the new law, teachers will receive an average increase of around $5,100, or a hike of more than 10% over their current pay.
Under the new law, teachers will receive a pay raise increase every year by a few hundred dollars. Larger increases will be handed out every fifth year, with the largest boost coming on a teacher’s 25th anniversary. After the law goes into effect on July 1st, the starting state base pay for teachers will raise from $37,000 to $41,500. This raise better sets the Magnolia state in line with the average of what other states pay in teacher salaries.
According to information from The National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the country, Mississippi currently has the lowest payouts for teachers in the nation. During the 2019-20 academic year, the average teacher salary in Mississippi sat at $46,843. The national average teacher salary sits at $64,133. Seeing a need to address this issue, lawmakers in Mississippi knew that a pay raise was necessary in order to stimulate retention rates within the state.
Teachers’ assistants were also thought of when lawmakers wrote the bill. State teacher aids will also receive a pay raise boost starting in July. They will receive a $2 thousand increase that will be implemented over two years. That takes the state’s current teacher assistant pay rate from $15 to $17 thousand.
Speaking to lawmakers regarding the pay raise bill at the Capitol on March 16th, a tenured teacher from Grenada spoke of her approval for the legislation. However, she also criticized the state for its embarrassingly low payout to teacher assistants. “They barely make a living wage at this point,” said Suzanne Smith who is also the secretary/treasurer for the Mississippi Association of Educators. However, Smith did seem thankful that at least the assistants were getting something.
Similarly, Smith said that she hopes that the incremental pay raise every five years will help attracts more educators to stay in the state. Recently, Mississippi has seen an uptick of teachers retiring only to end up commuting to Alabama or other neighboring states to continue teaching somewhere they can make a better living. Therefore, finding new enticing ways to keep teachers in the state is a problem Mississippi knew it had to address.