Mississippi proposes to raise teacher pay 3%. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger editorially supports the pay raise, but notes that Mississippi has spent so long talking about teacher pay raises that the rest of the nation has moved on — a pay raise will keep Mississippi out of last place among the states in teacher pay, but just barely. Mississippians had hoped to raise their ranking.
But salaries are a moving target; the benchmark was the average in place in 2001, not 2006, and certainly not 2007 and beyond. While Mississippi was giving incremental raises, so were other states in the Southern Regional Education Board area – some larger than Mississippi’s – so, the funding gap remains.
Five years ago, Mississippi’s average teacher salary was $31,954. For 2006-07, without a new raise this year, the average salary will be $41,413. But, among SREB states, the average for 2004-05 (the latest figure available) is $42,333. The national average salary was $47,808.
As a result, state Board of Education vice chairman Bill Jones has noted: “We’ve been talking about meeting that goal of the Southeastern average for 25 years. And we’re 47th. We’re only $150 away from being 50th.”
Woe be to any state that slips below Mississippi. The Clarion-Ledger closes with this:
Mississippi not only must catch up, it also must keep up with competitive teacher salaries in the region. Otherwise, the state will continue to fall behind.
Salary levels should not be a one-shot deal that comes around at election time.
The newspaper is right, at least if one assumes Mississippians want a solid economy, good jobs, and they love their children. Those are fair assumptions.
Especially interesting: The Clarion-Ledger’s on-line forum on teacher pay, and opinion editor Sid Salter’s blog, in which he supports teacher pay increases, but goes further to urge increases for all government employees in Mississippi. (There are no comments at the blog — if you teach, or know a teacher, why don’t you pipe in?)