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Teacher pay bill clears 1 step, goes to House

Mississippi senators asked no questions Thursday before voting unanimously to move forward with a teacher pay raise proposal.
But, the vote was just one step in what could be a long legislative process, and the bill awaits an uncertain fate. House leaders say they want more information about the state’s economic performance before committing to a multimillion-dollar plan.
“I’m ecstatic that even a positive amount was voted upon for our teachers, but I always say they deserve more, even pre-COVID,” said Brookhaven School District Superintendent Rod Henderson.

“Our teachers work so hard. They have to be educators, counselors, mothers, fathers, and build our students as far as character,” Henderson said. “Teaching goes so far beyond math, science and athletics. It’s about teaching character.”

Mississippi has long had some of the lowest teacher salaries in the nation. According to the most recent figures available from the Southern Regional Education Board, the average teacher salary in the U.S. for 2018-19 was $62,304. For Mississippi, the average was $45,105.
Senate Bill 2001 would give certified teachers with three or more years of experience a $1,000 pay increase.
Teachers with two years of experience and less would get a $1,110 bump, bringing them to a starting salary of $37,000 a year. Assistant teachers would receive a $1,000 pay increase. The bigger raise in early years is an effort to make teaching jobs more attractive.
The bill is similar to legislation proposed last year that was stalled after the coronavirus pandemic created uncertainty about state spending.

“We have to be competitive to grow our own and to encourage those coming up now through the system,” Henderson said. “It’s difficult sitting at a recruitment for teachers and our salary in Mississippi is so much lower than our neighboring states.”

Henderson said more substantial increases are needed in the years to come, as well, and lawmakers and taxpayers need to stay mindful of that.

“It takes a special soul to be a teacher,” Henderson said, “and I am so appreciative of our teachers.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.