Brushing Aside Slowdown, Mississippi Hikes Teacher Pay

By Alan Richard — August 08, 2001 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Mississippi teachers will see pay raises starting this fall—after the legislature decided in a one-day summer session that their pay shouldn’t be held hostage to a sputtering economy.

Members of both the House and the Senate voted overwhelmingly July 23 to ax a provision in a law passed last year that made teacher-pay raises conditional on state economic growth of 5 percent.

“It brings to culmination a fight for teacher pay that has been going on for decades,” said Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, who called legislators back to the state capital of Jackson for the special session. He signed the bill the same day it passed.

Given the current economic slowdown, it had appeared that Mississippi’s teachers—already some of the nation’s lowest-paid—might get no raise at all this school year if the economic-growth provision remained.

Gov. Musgrove vetoed one-time, across-the- board teacher raises passed by lawmakers in the spring. Those raises would have awarded $500 to teachers with less than 25 years’ experience, and $1,000 to those above that threshold.

But those raises would have derailed the governor’s six-year blueprint for raising teacher salaries, a plan approved by the legislature last year.

During the special session, a total of only six lawmakers voted against the plan—signaling a political victory for Mr. Musgrove and a long-term state commitment to higher teacher salaries.

Right now, teachers in the Magnolia State earn about $32,500 a year on average, compared with a national average of about $43,000. In time, the governor’s plan should make the state more competitive with its Southeastern neighbors, raising salaries 30 percent by 2006. The current Southeastern average is about $37,800.

“It’s a tremendous increase for our teachers, and we’re proud of that,” said Steve Williams, the special assistant to state Superintendent Richard L. Thompson.

‘Close to a Crisis’

The pay raises are crucial, considering Mississippi’s educational needs, said Beverly Sanders, the president of the Mississippi Association of Educators, an affiliate of the National Education Association.

Hundreds of teacher vacancies exist statewide, even though schools are scheduled to reopen this month, Ms. Sanders said. Only about half the graduates of college teacher-training programs in Mississippi actually enter the field, and close to a third of the state’s teachers are nearing retirement.

“Literally, we are really close to a crisis with all the vacancies,” Ms. Sanders said.

The legislature’s lopsided vote showed that Mississippians may be interested in education more than any other issue, said Rep. Charlie Capps, a Democrat and the chairman of the House budget committee.

“If we have to make cuts in other agencies, well, that’ll happen,” said Mr. Capps. “Our workforce has to be better-educated than it is today.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the August 08, 2001 edition of Education Week as Brushing Aside Slowdown, Mississippi Hikes Teacher Pay


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Transform Teaching and Learning with AI
Increase productivity and support innovative teaching with AI in the classroom.
Content provided by Promethean
Curriculum Webinar Computer Science Education Movement Gathers Momentum. How Should Schools React?
Discover how schools can expand opportunities for students to study computer science education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States Election Guide 2022: K-12 Issues and Candidates Shaping the Midterms
Education is at the heart of some of the most contentious issues on voters' minds as they weigh candidates from governor to local school board.
13 min read
Illustration of voting.
DigitalVision Vectors
States Will California’s $4.1-Billion Bet on Community Schools Transform K-12 Education?
Community schools could vastly improve educational outcomes, but this high-cost experiment is no quick fix, experts say.
Laura Newberry, Los Angeles Times
8 min read
Counselor 1387286499 b
States Some States Want to Lock in Universal Free School Meals as Federal Waivers End
The pandemic-era waivers let students regardless of income get free school meals and drew wide use nationally.
4 min read
Norma Ordonez places a tray of grilled cheese sandwiches into an oven to warm as she prepares take-away lunches for students kept out of class because of the coronavirus at Richard Castro Elementary School early Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in west Denver.
Norma Ordonez places sandwiches into an oven to warm as she prepares take-away lunches for students at Richard Castro Elementary School in Denver in 2020.
David Zalubowski/AP
States Opinion Searching for Common Ground: The Parental-Rights Bill, aka the 'Don’t Say Gay’ Bill
Rick and USC dean Pedro Noguera discuss Florida's law curbing gender and sexuality talk and its impact on students, teachers, and parents.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty