Mississippi governor signs biggest teacher increase in years

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill Wednesday authorizing the largest pay increase in a generation for the state’s public school teachers, who have long been among the lowest paid in the nation.

House Bill 530 becomes law July 1. Teachers get an average raise of about $5,100 — a jump of more than 10% from their current salary.

Lawmakers and the Republican governor have said increasing salaries could help Mississippi attract and retain professionals in the classroom.

The median teacher salary in Mississippi during the 2019-20 academic year was $46,843, according to the Southern Regional Education Board. That fell short of the regional organization’s average of $55,205 for teachers in the regional organization’s 16 states. The national average was $64,133.

Under the new law, teachers’ base salaries will increase by a few hundred dollars most years, with larger increases with every fifth year of experience and a larger increase after 25 years.

A Mississippi entry-level teacher with a bachelor’s degree currently receives a salary of $37,000 from the state, and the local school district can provide an allowance. Under the new law, the state’s base salary will be $41,500. Teachers with higher degrees and more experience are paid more.

Teacher assistants get a $2,000 raise over two years. That will bring their wages from $15,000 to $17,000.

Under Democratic Ray Mabus administration in 1988, Mississippi legislators approved about an 18% pay increase for teachers, raising their average salary from about $20,750 to nearly $24,500.

The increase Reeves signed on Wednesday is a larger dollar amount, but a smaller percentage increase. Taking inflation into account, the average increase from $3,750 in 1988 equals more than $8,400 today.

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