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Local teachers need your support

Not surprisingly, Mississippi found itself near the bottom of a recent list. This time it’s a list of teacher salary rankings.

The Magnolia State ranks 51st out of 54 for the highest teacher salaries. Why 54? Places like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are included.

The average teacher salary in Mississippi is $42,393, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state Department of Education says it’s $44,416.

That’s compared with more than $70,000 in Alaska, New York and Connecticut. And while that seems like a big difference, cost of living offsets most of that. Our state ranked 13th in affordability.  A dollar simply goes further in Mississippi than in those high-paying states.

A better comparison might be nearby states. Alabama’s average salary is $48,690; Louisiana’s is $48,384; Arkansas’ is $46,916; and Tennessee’s is $48,847.

Mississippi clearly trails its neighbors when it comes to teacher pay. That hurts the state’s ability to attract and keep quality teachers.

But that doesn’t stop teachers here from doing their best to help students. Teachers often are forced to spend their own money for classroom supplies that may not be provided by the state or local school district. On average, teachers nationwide spend $500 out-of-pocket for supplies for their classrooms. While most local teachers likely don’t spend that much, we know they spend some. And they do it because they care about their students.

With this in mind, we all can do more to support teachers. Ask your child’s teacher what he/she needs in the classroom. You may not can personally provide it, but a group of parents likely can.

Maybe they just need a kind word or a note of encouragement. Whatever you can do, find a way to support local teachers.