Jackson, Miss. (The Clarion Ledger) – As public educators across the state work second, and even third jobs, to make ends meet, Republican and Democratic hopefuls for statewide office are running on platforms of increasing teacher pay.
Although teacher groups have long lobbied in the campaign off season for boosting teacher salaries to the Southeastern average of about $51,000, the issue takes on a renewed sense of urgency in election years. Mississippi teachers on average earn $44,659, according to the state Department of Education.
Gov. Phil Bryant on Tuesday signed a bill increasing teacher pay by $1,500 starting July 1. And most candidates have gone on the record to say, if elected, they’ll push the Legislature for a better deal.
For some teachers the pay raise, coupled with a last-minute $2 million funding increase for the state’s controversial school choice program, has further fractured relationships with Republican leadership that were already fragile due to underfunding of the state’s adequate education formula.
Funding shortfalls also occurred Democratic leadership. But criticism has been more acute against Republican leaders who campaigned against a ballot initiative that sought funding mandates that advocates said could have boosted teacher salaries.
The $1,500 pay raise, in part, even prompted the first talk in decades about a teacher walk out. That idea has effectively cooled, but educators have a strong interest in candidates’ platforms concerning public education.
Here’s what candidates for lieutenant governor and governor — the positions most in line to influence education policy — told the Clarion Ledger about teacher raises.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Republican
“Our teachers are the professionals with whom we trust our children for eight or more hours a day, and their pay should reflect the critical importance of this calling,” Hosemann said in a statement. “We have more work to do on raising our teacher salaries, and we will not just focus on the issue during election years. We also have to review strategies to end the teacher shortage impacting many of our districts. Pay is also part of this equation.”
The Associated Press reported that Hosemann also committed to annual teacher pay raises during an event by the Mississippi Professional Educators.