Teachers would get yearly pay raises and significant boosts every five years under a new proposal Mississippi Senate leaders unveiled Monday. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, the Senate president, announced the plan alongside Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar, R-Leakesville.
Under the proposal, educators with a bachelor’s degree and no experience in the classroom would enjoy starting salaries of $39,000 instead of the current $37,000. Under the current schedule, teachers do not get their first pay increase until after accruing three years of experience. Under this schedule, teachers would begin seeing yearly increases of at least $500 after their first year of experience.
Loome: Current Pay Bumps ‘Too Small’
The Senate’s proposed legislation would invest $210 million in teacher pay. Lawmakers crafted it after a series of meetings with teachers around the state.
“We are pleased with that and particularly pleased that the Senate took the time to really listen to what teachers’ concerns are and to really take a look at where the deficiencies are in our current teacher salary schedule. So rather than just doing a simplistic across-the-board pay raise, they have actually rewritten the schedule,” Parents Campaign Executive Director Nancy Loome told the Mississippi Free Press on Monday. Her organization lobbies lawmakers with a focus on issues affecting public school educators.
Under the current pay schedule, teachers do get regular pay increases after the third year, but it often is not enough under the current system, Loome said.
“While teachers really appreciate the current step increases, they are so small they really don’t feel them. They are typically eaten up by inflation increases and insurance premiums,” Loome said. “So the teachers liked the idea of a more significant pay bump at specific intervals.”
Under the proposal, all teachers would get $500 raises with each additional year of experience except after accruing five, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years of experience in the classroom. During those years, educators with a bachelor’s degree, classified as “A Class,” would receive pay boosts of $1,325. Educators with master’s degrees (“AA Class”), specialist’s degrees (“AAA Class”) or doctorates (“AAAA Class”) would get higher raises in those years in the amounts, respectively, of $1,425, $1,525 and $1,625.
Like Class A educators, those with higher degrees would also see higher starting salaries with raises starting after one year. The proposal raises starting pay for inexperienced AA Class teachers from $39,280 to $41,500; for AAA Class teachers from $40,444 to $44,250; and for AAAA Class teachers from $41,608 to $47,750.
“When you add in those $500 yearly step increases and you have the bigger bump every five years, the cumulative effect of that is pretty significant over time,” Loome said. “So those mid-career teachers who were really having a hard time, that’s typically when they’re starting out with a family, they have kids to pay for and they have a mortgage. They were really feeling the squeeze with the current salary schedule.”
‘Something Really Good’
Under the Senate proposal, educators would continue to receive pay bumps of at least $500 up until amassing 35 years of experience, at which point the yearly raises would cease. Mississippi, which offers some of the lowest teacher salaries in the nation and where education has suffered from chronic underfunding, has been experiencing a sustained teacher shortage for years that has led some public schools to opt to allow otherwise unqualified people to teach on emergency licenses.
“Our teachers have a profession critical to our State’s success,” Hosemann tweeted Monday afternoon after announcing the plan. “They are worthy of our praise, respect and resources.”
While the current proposal only involves the Mississippi Legislature’s upper chamber, Loome told the Mississippi Free Press that she has “heard that the Mississippi House is committed to a significant pay raise.”
“I don’t know how they’ll feel about this specific proposal, but I think at the end of the day, it looks like we’re going to get something really good.”