In 2022, the Legislature and Governor Tate Reeves enacted a $246 million a year teacher pay raise, the largest in state history. The average teacher’s salary increased by more than $5,000 as a result.
In 2019, then-Lt. Governor Tate Reeves campaigned for governor on the promise of delivering a teacher pay raise to Mississippi’s educators. In 2022, Reeves teamed with the Legislature to deliver on that promise.
House Bill 530, which was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, made a $246 million additional investment in teacher pay. It marked the largest raise for educators in state history.
Under the law, the average annual teacher pay increased by $5,151 for the 2022-2023 school year. The increase marked an 11 percent pay bump for the average teacher, bringing their salaries from $47,902 in the 2021-2022 school year to just over $53,000 this past school year.
Veteran teachers were not the only intended beneficiaries. Starting teacher pay went up from $37,123 to $41,638, moving Mississippi above the southeastern average and in line with the national average for starting salaries.
Additionally, the law includes built-in increases in pay between $400-600 annually, along with larger pay increases, between $1,200-$1,350 every five years. The variances are dependent on the level of education attainment.
Reeves has touted the investment in both educators and the education system during the course of the campaign for governor this year.
In a written statement, Reeves said “high school graduation rates at an all-time high, leading the nation in 4th grade reading and math gains, record results across multiple subjects — the Mississippi Miracle in education is real, and our teachers played a major role in this accomplishment. It’s why I was proud to sign the largest teacher pay raise in state history and why we’re going to continue to take every opportunity we can to better support our educators in the coming years.”
State Senator Nicole Boyd, a member of the Mississippi Senate’s Education Committee, explained why the law was necessary.
“Providing teachers with competitive salaries keeps good teachers in the classroom which is what our schools, districts and state need,” said Boyd. “We can’t afford to have good teachers leaving the profession for other jobs due to salary. Teachers spend eight hours a day with our students, and it is imperative that we have a quality workforce.”
Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann has been among the leading advocates for investing in education. In an interview with Magnolia Tribune, Hosemann said, “We are on a great trajectory,” but that there is always consideration of what more can be done.
“When we entrust children to the teachers eight to ten hours a day for the economic future and their future as citizens, I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination they are overcompensated,” Hosemann said.
He says we need to think with longer time horizons in planning for the future and points to the fact that the students being trained by our teachers will be filling the jobs of tomorrow.
The pay raise was passed in the middle of a generational inflation event that has impacted the entire country. Inflation on everyday items, including energy, food, transportation and commodities is up more than 20 percent since 2020.
While HB 530 initially drew rave reviews across the education community, prices have muted some of the early enthusiasm.
“My spouse and I are both educators and, while we were both initially excited about the pay increase, I think that it came at an unfortunate time that coincided with a spike in the cost of living that has made any potential benefits go unnoticed,” said Taylor Myers-Rock, a Mississippi teacher.
Myers-Rock acknowledges, however, that the pay raise has helped to offset inflation and that their purchasing power would be even more diminished had the investment not occurred.
“Obviously, I think we’d both be a little worse for wear without it.”
She also said there are things other than compensation that have a larger impact on teacher morale. Myers-Rock specifically mentioned the importance of education freedom for teachers in the classroom and warned of the impact of legislative restrictions on how and what to teach.
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