Mississippi Senate leaders propose teacher pay increase

Published 4:13 pm Monday, January 10, 2022

Mississippi Senate leaders are proposing a plan to increase teachers’ pay an average of $4,700 over two years to try to move the state away from its perpetually low national ranking for educators’ salaries.

Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar unveiled the proposal Monday during a public policy forum.

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

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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.

DeBar said one problem with the current Mississippi teacher pay schedule is that it does not include annual increases for the first three years. He said the proposal “corrects or frontloads” the salary schedule by providing $500 annual increases for newer teachers.

The plan also would provide larger increases when teachers reach five, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years. Those increases would be $1,325 to $1,625, depending on the degrees a teacher has earned.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has proposed giving teachers a $1,300 pay raise during the budget year that begins July 1, then $1,000 raises for each of the next two years.

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.”