Magnolia State educators may soon enjoy an income bump of about $4,850 on average if the Mississippi Senate agrees to a proposed House compromise plan to raise teacher pay.
The Mississippi Free Press obtained details of the plan, which would raise starting pay to an average of $41,638. That would exceed both the southeastern starting average of $39,754 and the national starting average of $41,163. Mississippi educators currently earn a starting salary of about $37,000, the lowest in the nation.
The two chambers have been engaged in preliminary negotiations among conference members after each passed its own competing teacher pay-raise bills. The new proposal combines elements of the House plan, such as larger immediate raises, with the Senate’s ideas, such as its emphasis on yearly raises. Senate leaders have not yet said whether they will agree to the plan, however.
Lawmakers estimate that about 92% of current teachers would see a pay increase of at least $4,000 starting in the 2022-2023 school year if the plan becomes law. In addition to the immediate pay raise, the plan would provide yearly step increases of at least $400 every year and $1,000 or more every fifth year. In their 25th year teaching, educators would enjoy a $2,500 raise.
Earlier this year, Parents Campaign President Nancy Loome, whose organization lobbies on behalf of public educators, told the Mississippi Free Press that the yearly increases would be a significant help to teachers in the state.
“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,” she said. “So the teachers liked the idea of a more significant pay bump at specific intervals.”
Under the plan, the pay increases would continue until a teacher’s 35th year, at which point educators with a bachelor’s degree would max out at a $60,000 salary, while those with a doctorate would earn $71,400 per year.
The plan would also offer assistant teachers pay raises of $2,000 for the 2022-2023 school year. Currently, assistant teachers earn just $15,000 per year.
The lawmakers on the conference committee, which has yet to formally gather, include Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar, Jr., R-Leakesville; Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory; House Education Committee Chairman Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach; Rep. Kent McCarty, R-Hattiesburg; and Rep. Kevin Felsher, R-Hattiesburg.
In order for the compromise plan to become law, the Senate must sign off, then both chambers of the Legislature must approve it and send it to Gov. Tate Reeves for his signature. During a political speech at the Neshoba County Fair last year, the governor proposed raising teacher pay across the board by a more modest $1,300, with $1,000 pay raises in each of the following two years.
Mississippi, 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.