Report: Inflation has negated benefits of historic 2022 teacher pay raise

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The 2022 historic teacher pay raise has been largely negated by the impact of inflation, according to a new report.

Mississippi First, an education policy organization, published on Tuesday the findings from a survey of Mississippi educators, the second year they’ve done the study. Many of the findings echoed the results from the previous year, despite the passage of the historic pay raise that increased teacher salaries by an average of about $5,000.

The report argues the pay raise was ineffective at improving teacher quality of life because of the unprecedented inflation occurring at the same time. While the 2022 raise brought up the average salary by 11%, consumer prices increased by 9% in the same time period.

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The authors included two additional questions on this year’s survey asking about the impact of the pay raise and of inflation. A substantial 93% of teachers said inflation had impacted their financial well-being, while only 36% said the same about the pay raise.

When looking at the metrics they evaluated last year, the new report found little change.

“We’re seeing identical data in terms of attrition risk (likelihood of leaving the classroom), in terms of financial well-being and in terms of the connection between the two,” said Toren Ballard, one of the report’s authors.

Just over half of teachers reported being “somewhat” or “very” likely to leave the classroom in the first report for the 2021-2022 school year, a figure that has barely changed even with the addition of the pay raise in the new results.

Similarly, half of teachers reported struggling to afford one basic necessity in last year’s report, a number that held constant for the 2022-23 school year. The report defines basic necessities as food, transportation, housing, medical care, childcare, and student loan payments.

To address these issues, the report recommends a $5,000 across-the-board raise for the 2024 legislative session to keep pace ahead of inflation and improve the financial reality for teachers.

Ballard said after the 2022 raise, a lot of people assumed an attitude that the pay issue had been solved for teachers, but inflation has put it back on the table.

The report also recommends a few policies to help teachers most at risk of leaving the classroom: a stipend for teachers in critical shortage areas, expanding access to a loan repayment program, and lowering health insurance premiums for teachers with dependents on the plan.

These are all policy proposals that Mississippi First has brought forward before. Ballard said he feels optimistic about these more targeted policies getting passed, particularly since some of them already saw significant support in previous legislative sessions.

“A lot of people are still under this assumption that ‘teachers don’t do it for the money,’” he said. “But in a state where so many teachers are struggling to afford basic necessities – food, transportation, or healthcare – living that kind of life economically is really going to wear on your ability to show up and give your all to one of the most difficult jobs in America today.”