Mississippi Plan Would Increase Teacher Salaries to Make State More Competitive

Lawmakers in the Mississippi Senate have proposed a plan that would increase teachers' salaries to make the state more competitive.

Republican Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann and Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar announced the proposal Monday in a public policy forum.

The plan would increase teachers' pay by an average of $4,700 over two years, attempting to move the state away from its low national ranking for educators' salaries.

"This pay plan will make us more competitive with our neighbors," said DeBar, a Republican from Leakesville, Mississippi.

"Hopefully, this will entice or provide some incentive, some motivation for teachers to stay in the profession as well as stay in Mississippi," DeBar said, according to the Mississippi Today news website.

One problem with the current state's pay schedule is that it does not have annual increases for the first three years, DeBar said. He said the plan "corrects or front-loads" the salary schedule, giving $500 annual increases to newer teachers.

Additionally, the plan would give larger pay raises to teachers when they reach five, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years. Depending on the type of degrees a teacher has earned, the raise would be anywhere from $1,325 to $1,625.

"We're grateful for the Senate's work on this and optimistic at this further momentum for a meaningful teacher pay raise this year," said Republican Governor Tate Reeves said in a statement to the Clarion Ledger. "Teachers deserve it."

Reeves previously proposed a $1,300 pay raise for teachers in the budget year starting July 1, then $1,000 raises a year for the next two years.

Mississippi Plan, Increased Teachers' Salaries
A proposed plan in Mississippi would increase teachers’ pay by an average of $4,700 over two years. Above, a teacher instructs students at Freedom Preparatory Academy on September 10, 2020, in Provo, Utah. George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

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.

The starting salary for a Mississippi teacher with a bachelor's degree is $37,000 for the current school year, according to the state Department of Education. Teachers with advanced degrees and more experience are paid more.

Republican leaders in the House have also said they support a teacher pay raise, but they have not released a specific proposal.

Hosemann and DeBar spoke during a forum sponsored by Mississippi State University's Stennis Institute of Government and the Capitol press corps.

Kelly Riley, executive director of Mississippi Professional Educators, attended the forum and said afterward that the Senate plan would be "a very significant step" for teacher pay.

"This plan really focuses on our veteran, experienced teachers, and it focuses on retaining those teachers that we have," Riley said. "And, trust me, after the past two years in the classroom, that's a huge sign of support to our teachers, and I think that will make a real difference for our state."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.