Senate unanimously passes teacher pay raise

The teacher pay raise bill has passed the Senate. 

By a unanimous vote, the Senate passed the bill that would raise teacher salaries by $1,000 over a two-year phase-in period, and the raise would come with a $51 million price tag for taxpayers. 

After the Mississippi Division of Medicaid announced $50 million in savings, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves called for the funds to be put towards a teacher pay raise. Now that the bill has passed, he stated that this part of an ongoing effort to invest in education. 

“Over the past eight years, we have targeted the investment of tax dollars into the classroom,” Reeves said. “This bill spends about $51 million on teachers and other personnel who help educate Mississippi children. With this law, a teacher who worked in the classroom in 2012 will make almost $8,000 more per year by 2020.”

While Reeves and other lawmakers praised the raise for nearly 35,000 educators, most teachers are not as enthused. In its first year, the bill would amount to a $19 per week raise, and the Mississippi Association of Educators were not satisfied with the bill, calling it “unacceptable” in a letter sent to lawmakers. 

The Senate bill is mirrored in the House with a similar bill, and MAE President Joyce Helmick said that the raise still leaves Mississippi teacher salaries well below the average of surrounding states. 

“For teachers entering the profession, that would mean a starting salary that is still below that of the Southeastern average. For the average Mississippi teacher, that would put their salary a whopping $6000 below the Southeastern average of $51,500.”

The average teacher salary in Mississippi is $44,925, according to the Mississippi Department of Education.

Related: Teachers not satisfied as pay raise bill advances

In the letter, Helmick went on to say that low salaries and underfunded schools will lead to a decline in the number of teachers in the state. 

“Our shamefully low teacher salaries, inadequate and under-resourced classrooms, minimal and underfunded teacher supply funds, and the consistent starvation of public education in Mississippi all play a significant role in our inability to retain and recruit current and future educators while limiting opportunities for our students.”

According to the MAE, the MDE issued 7,620 teaching licenses in 2007, and by 2017, that number shrunk to 603 licenses issued.

The MAE asked lawmakers to “provide an immediate raise of $5,000 to all certified teachers” and a $2,500 raise for assistant teachers among other demands. 

The House bill has not yet been brought up for discussion.