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The Current Effort to Increase Educator Pay in Mississippi is a Good First Step

March 31, 2021

Jackson, Mississippi—Teach Plus Mississippi today issued the following statement in response to Governor Tate Reeves signing legislation that will give teachers an annual pay raise of up to $1,100. 

“Teach Plus and Teach Plus teacher leaders appreciate the efforts that the state legislature and the governor have made to increase educator pay. This is an important step in the right direction, especially during a session that began with significant uncertainty. We also recognize that this is the first of many steps we must take to ensure that being a teacher in Mississippi is an attractive and financially viable option for those in and around the Magnolia State,” said Sanford Johnson, Teach Plus Mississippi Executive Director.

Mississippi’s current starting salary of $35,067 is among the lowest in the country. A teacher who started at that salary would have to teach for 27 years before they reach $50,000 within the state’s current salary schedule. A new teacher with a PhD would have to work 14 years to reach $50,000. Mississippi’s low pay, combined with the rising cost of attending and completing college, is one of the most significant factors in the state’s teacher shortage. Research shows that a pay raise of at least $3,000 is necessary to give teachers a living wage.

“Inadequate pay is why it is so difficult to attract educators to teach in critical shortage areas like mine, where vacant positions often go unfilled. In the Mississippi Delta, schools are often understaffed and lack highly qualified teachers. Our students are subjected to overfilled, doubled-up classrooms, permanent substitutes, or no class at all because there is no one to teach them,” said Tiffany Davis, a kindergarten teacher at Webb Kindergarten Preparatory School in Greenville, Mississippi and a 2020-21 Teach Plus Mississippi Policy Fellow. 

“Teacher salaries in Mississippi lag below the regional average, with a new teacher making about $35,890 in their first year in the classroom. This is simply not enough. By comparison, first-year teachers make $40,873 in Alabama and $46,100 in Louisiana. Competitive wages would bring in more highly qualified professionals, help retain early-career teachers, and improve recruitment efforts,” said Shelley Putnam, a Teach Plus Senior Policy Fellow who teachers high school science at Columbia High School in South Mississippi.

Teach Plus urges Mississippi lawmakers to continue their efforts next year by passing another pay raise that would move the state closer to the southeastern average. The closer Mississippi gets to and beyond the regional average in pay, the closer we’ll get to fixing our teacher shortage.” 

About Teach Plus
The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. Since 2009, Teach Plus has trained thousands of teacher leaders across the country who are driving policy changes and improving the instructional practices of teachers to create an education system driven by equity, access, and excellence for all students. teachplus.org