/Pay for new, mid-career teachers in Mississippi ‘extremely low’ compared to other Southern states

Pay for new, mid-career teachers in Mississippi ‘extremely low’ compared to other Southern states

Mississippi News – Nonprofit Mississippi News First-year teachers will earn an average salary of $25,500. According to data from the Southern Regional Education Board, this number rises to $27,000 by their 15th year of service. Megan Boren (a program specialist at SREB), said that this is a very low figure, especially if they have a child. SREB recently released a dashboard that analyzes teacher compensation in 16 states. “I believe that’s really a struggle point for Mississippi.” This dashboard, which is based on data from the 2018-2019 school years, shows teachers’ salaries, take home pay, retirement, and health care benefits in the region. The year of teacher’s employment determines how take-home pay is calculated. For example, a first-year teacher does not have a health insurance premium taken out of his or her salary to calculate take home pay. A 15th-year teacher will have the $705 family premium taken from their pay to calculate take home pay. It also includes Medicare and retirement contributions, as well as FICA taxes. Take home pay refers to the amount teachers have left after deductions for taxes, benefits, and other fees. This shows that Mississippi’s average salary for teachers with at least 35-years of experience is higher than the region, but that it is lower for educators in their mid-career and younger years. This is in addition to the teacher wage penalty. It shows how much less public school teachers get in weekly wages relative other similarly educated people. Teachers in Mississippi make 15.2% less per workweek than their colleagues in other areas of the state. Teachers in the southeast make 20% less than other professionals. Stephen Pruitt (president of the SREB) said, “We need to consider teacher compensation as a package.” “It’s great if your salary is x but if it’s only x minus a lot, then it’s difficult to recruit new teachers.” The SREB serves as a link between 16 states in the south regarding education policies, research, and practices. They work closely with governors and state education officials to help them address issues such as teacher preparation, year-round schooling, literacy instruction, and other related topics. The group hopes that states will use the dashboard in order to develop long-term plans for improving teacher compensation. Pruitt stated, “We strongly believe we must elevate the education profession” and show people that it is the profession that creates all other professions. Teachers in Mississippi are paid according to their years of education and experience. Districts often supplement these salaries with their own funds. The state Legislature gave teachers a $1500 raise last year. According to this salary schedule, the minimum teacher can earn is $35,890 for a first-year teacher who has a bachelor’s degree. Before district supplements, the maximum salary is $68,870. According to the 2020-21 salary schedule, it will take a teacher at bachelor’s degree a minimum 27 years to earn a $50,000 salary. Teachers with master’s degrees will have to wait 20 years, while teachers with doctoral degrees will need 14 years. Teachers who choose to remain in education can transition into administration to provide for their families. The lack of incentives for teachers and rising college tuition costs in Mississippi will likely lead to a decline in the number of students who complete educator preparation programs. This is exactly what has happened in the past seven years. A recent Mississippi First report shows that there has been a 32% drop in the number of graduates from educator preparation programs between 2013-2014 and 2017-2018. The out-of-state teacher pipeline has also declined almost completely with a 96% decline in four years. Erica Jones, the president of the Mississippi Association of Educators, is a former teacher who taught for 19 years. Many of the students she has spoken to said they are looking for a job in another country after they graduate so that they can earn a better salary. She said, “I remember all too well having low salaries and trying make ends meet.” Her husband was also an educator and eventually moved to an administrator position. She said that her husband was an excellent math teacher and it was hard for me to watch him teach, but it was necessary to ensure our survival as a family. Shannon Eubanks is an academic coach in Brookhaven. He was a former teacher, principal, and teacher. Eubanks stated that teachers get no raises from the state of Mississippi the first three years they start teaching. “So, already, they’re setback,” he said. Eubanks said that he sees young teachers struggling to pay their student loans and child care costs. This is due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While many people praise the quality of teachers’ health and retirement benefits and the high premiums for family insurance, recent changes in the pension plan and the current state of the pension system continue to be a problem. Many states reduced benefits after the recession by raising employee contributions and retirement age. Mississippi increased the number of years required to retire from 25 years to 30 years, for teachers who were hired after July 1, 2011. Eubanks stated that anecdotally it seems like every time there is talk of a raise in the salary, there is a rise in our family premium. He and other educators were notified in January that there would be an increase in family coverage premiums. He’s less affected because he has been in the system for longer than others, but younger teachers are more directly affected by the increases. According to data, anywhere from 92-94 percent of teachers won’t break even or receive a pension that is worth more than their contributions plus interest. 74% is the regional average for teachers who will not break even. Jones stated that while legislators often claim that teachers have a great retirement plan, it’s not enough for someone just starting teaching. As the state’s teacher shortage problem worsens, these are all areas policymakers should consider. Boren stated that Mississippi is doing well for teachers nearing retirement. Their average top salary is higher than the regional, but they are very low in compensating new teachers and mid-career teachers. This is something policymakers should consider… to increase retention and recruitment. This must be accompanied by a plan to provide more support for teachers. Teachers are leaving in greater numbers because they feel less supported by their teachers and their leaders. Increasing that quality support through mentorship, better professional growth, and better school culture is all important.