The testimony at today’s Senate hearing on teacher pay provided legislators lots to think about as they consider how to adjust state law – including teacher compensation levels – to better recruit and retain teachers in Mississippi. You can watch the recording of the hearing at your convenience.
Here are some takeaways from today:
• Mississippi’s starting teacher salary is $3,300 below the average starting salary of teachers in the Southern Regional Education Board’s (SREB) 16-state region (salary data include local and other supplements; comparison is for the 2018-2019 year and includes classroom teachers only, no principals, superintendents, or other administrators)
• Mississippi’s average overall teacher salary is $8,200 below the average overall salary of teachers in the SREB region
• Mississippi’s average top teacher salary exceeds the SREB average by $2,000 (top teacher refers to maximum years of experience and maximum certification level)
• Mississippi’s 2019-2020 average teacher salary is the lowest in the nation
• Adjusted for cost of living, Mississippi’s 2019-2020 average teacher salary lags all states but one in the SREB region and only three in the nation
• Mississippi teachers earn 15.2% less than their similarly educated Mississippi peers who work in other fields
• Adjusted for inflation, Mississippi teachers earn less today than they earned in the 1980s
• 45% of teachers in the SREB region leave the profession within the first five years
• State health insurance is a helpful benefit for single educators, but the state health insurance premiums for dependents are unaffordable on a teacher’s salary and compare poorly to those in other states
• While state retirement is a nice benefit, it is not a strong consideration for new teachers who are deciding where or whether to teach
• Low pay is not the only reason teachers leave the profession; lack of respect and a failure of state leaders to treat teachers as professionals are also chief concerns
Senators made it clear today that they are serious about this effort. They were fully engaged, asked good questions, and expressed deep concern about the low level of teacher pay in Mississippi. Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, in remarks to the committee, said, “What you are working on is the future of Mississippi. This is an opportunity for change.” We couldn’t agree more.
Education Chairman Dennis DeBar closed the meeting by expressing gratitude for our hardworking teachers: “I think I speak for the committee when I say thank you to all our teachers that are at work, doing the Lord’s work. We appreciate all you do, especially these last couple of years…”
Legislators need to know that you believe this effort is worth their time and a significant investment by the state. They need to hear from you. Please reach out to your own legislators and spread the word on social media: Mississippi teachers’ pay should reflect the value of the difficult and indispensable work they do. Together, we’ve got this!