The state Senate on Friday with no debate unanimously passed a $210-million teacher pay raise, but the entire Black Caucus did not vote because its members walked out in protest of a critical race theory bill passed earlier.
Senate Bill 2444 would provide an average teacher salary increase of $4,700 over two years and restructure the way teachers are paid to provide higher salaries in the long term.
With the state budget flush largely from federal government pandemic spending, the state Senate and House now have competing teacher pay raise bills. Either would be one of the largest teacher pay raises in state history, with the House proposal at $219 million, providing raises of $4,000 to $6,000 a year.
“This will hopefully incentivize people to go into the teaching field and incentivize those already teaching to stay and to stay in Mississippi,” said Senate Education Chairman Dennis DeBar, R-Leakesville. He said teachers and experts have called for lawmakers to “remove some of the stagnation” in teacher salaries. The House plan would provide sizeable pay increases for teachers at five-year intervals.
After DeBar introduced the bill on Friday, Sen. Philip Moran, R-Kiln, successfully offered a motion to prohibit debate and vote immediately. Senate Bill 2444 then passed unanimously, 35-0, but with 14 members of the Senate’s Black Caucus having left before the bill was taken up.
Mississippi’s teacher pay by several metrics is the lowest in the nation and the state has been grappling with a teacher shortage. Nationally, nearly 50% of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years, according to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future.
Both legislative proposals aim to increase starting teachers’ salaries, and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, House Speaker Philip Gunn and Gov. Tate Reeves have all promised “significant” teacher raises. Reeves proposed a smaller, $3,300 increase over two years.
On Friday, Hosemann in a statement said: “Teachers open the gates of the minds of our future. I am thankful for the work of Chairman DeBar in listening to teachers to devise a pay system that begins the long necessary journey to monetarily rewarding their efforts.”
The Senate plan would bring the starting salary for teachers up to $40,000 and includes raises of $1,325 to $1,624 at five-year intervals as teachers gain more experience. The House plan includes a starting salary of $43,000 and a $2,000 raise for teacher assistants. The House plan would boost starting teacher pay above the Southeastern and national averages.
Each chamber has passed its own measure, sending it to the other. Most likely, a combination of the two will ultimately pass in the 2022 legislative session.
-- Article credit to Geoff Pender of Mississippi Today --