/Senate leaders unveil historic plan to significantly increase teacher pay

Senate leaders unveil historic plan to significantly increase teacher pay

Nonprofit Mississippi News Senate leaders presented Monday a proposal that would give Mississippi teachers an average raise in pay of $4,700 over two-years and reform the teacher’s compensation system to ensure they receive higher long-term salaries. On Monday, Lt. Governor Dennis DeBar of LeBar of LeBar announced the proposal, which if approved would be the largest teacher raise since the early 2000s. Delbert Hosemann, Senate Education Chair Dennis DeBar from Leakesville. According to Senate leaders, the goal is to structurally address Mississippi’s low teacher salaries. DeBar stated that the pay plan would make us more competitive than our neighboring states. “Hopefully, this is going to entice or provide some motivation, some incentive for teachers to remain in the profession as well in Mississippi.” The Senate’s restructuring of annual changes in teacher pay is designed to retain mid- and early career teachers who are often forced to leave the state or the teaching field due to low salaries. Starting in the second year, the Senate plan will cost $210 million annually. This figure includes a $166million cost for the first year to restructure teacher step increases and give a substantial raise to most teachers. The second year will see a $44 million increase for all teachers. The plan was revealed Monday at a Capitol press corps luncheon held by the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute of Government, where Hosemann, the Senate’s presiding officer, was due to speak. Hosemann invited DeBar to join him on the podium, where they presented the plan. The 2022 legislative session began last week and teacher pay is expected to be a priority issue. Hosemann, Speaker in the House Philip Gunn, and Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn all supported “significant” teacher pay increases this year. Reeves proposed a $3300 increase over the next two years. The House has not yet announced its plan. DeBar stated Monday that if the House wants a higher raise, it would be fine with him. Reeves’ office issued Monday a short written statement about the Senate plan. It stated that “we’re grateful to the Senate for its work on this, as well as optimistic at the continued momentum for a meaningful teacher raise this year.” Hosemann and DeBar stated that the Senate plan aims to fix some structural flaws in the so-called salary ladder. This ladder is set in state law and determines each year’s state compensation for teachers based upon their education level and years of experience. Teachers receive a modest increase each year as they gain more experience. Teachers are also paid more based on their academic qualifications. Monday’s Senate proposal would set the annual increase at $500. The plan would also provide significant increases for every five-year increment — $1.325 for teachers with a bachelor’s and master’s degrees, $1.425 for master’s students, $1.525 for specialists, and $1.624 for doctorates. Teachers would receive the greater step increase every five year and these increases would be part of their regular salary. Teachers would also be eligible for the salary ladder after their first year. After the third year teaching, the current ladder begins. The starting salary for teachers would go up from $37,000 to $40,000. Kelly Riley, executive director for the Mississippi Professional Educators, stated that she believes it (the Senate plan) will make a significant difference. Is it everything we want? No. It is important. It is moving in the right direction. It will increase our competitiveness. We appreciate (DeBar’s) dedication to this.” Nancy Loome is the director of The Parents’ Campaign. She said that she believes it was a good effort and addresses specific concerns raised by teachers during listening sessions. The entire salary schedule was rewritten, including the addition of steps after years 1 and 2. It compounds, which means everyone gets a raise. There are larger increases at five-year intervals. This is a great achievement. According to the Southern Regional Education Board, teachers at the top of the range actually do better than other states. They didn’t leave out those teachers – everyone gets something – but those in the middle of their careers will see some increases that will help them, hopefully, stop second and third jobs unless it is necessary. Jones stated that she saw the plan included the teacher 0-3 year increases and that they had been mentioned several times to Jones. We are very happy to see five years of larger increases. This proposal is coming on the heels of the roughly $1,000 raise that teachers received in the 2021 legislative session. Over the last several legislative terms, legislators have chosen to give small increments of pay raises instead of addressing the actual pay scale, as in the new Senate plan. DeBar stated that he had planned to offer a smaller raise before meeting with teachers in the state during town hall style meetings. DeBar jokingly said, “They were enthusiastic.” Hosemann and DeBar joked that the state’s unprecedented growth of 15.9% last year gave them the opportunity for a bigger pay increase. DeBar stated, “If we didn’t go forward with a substantial pay plan this year with our times and the revenue that we have… I don’t know if it could be done another year.” “This year is the right time to do it… It’s important to do so now.” Loome stated: “It seems like we are in an extremely good place…when the executive and both branches the Legislature declare they are committed to a substantial pay increase. They are realizing that teachers do an outstanding job but are paid at a level near poverty. It is not reasonable to expect professionals to continue doing such a job for such a low salary.