Marilyn Payne, kindergarten teacher at Clarksdale Collegiate, asks her students to give rhyming words Credit: Aallyah Wright, Mississippi Today

The state Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a $1,000 a year teacher pay raise that will bring starting teachers’ salary to $37,000 a year.

The measure now heads to the state House, but Speaker Philip Gunn this week said the House will not tackle the issue until later in the session, once state revenue and budget estimates become more firm.

Under Senate Bill 2001 teachers with zero to three years experience with a bachelor’s degree would see a $1,110 increase, bringing their annual pay to $37,000. This is still below the Southeastern regional average of $38,420 and national average of $40,154. A study by the National Education Association of starting teacher salaries for 2018-2019 ranked Mississippi’s pay 46th among states.

Last school year (2019-20) the average salary for all Mississippi teachers no matter experience was $46,843, according to the Mississippi Department of Education.

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann is pushing the pay raise and promising more in subsequent years — a major campaign promise in his successful campaign in 2019. Hosemann noted the bill was “No. 1,” the first filed and assigned in the Senate.

Recently, Gov. Tate Reeves, who also promised teacher pay raises when he campaigned for governor, said he would sign the proposed Senate raise if it makes it to his desk, although he did not advocate a raise in the budget recommendation he sent lawmakers.

Last year, a similar proposed raise passed the Senate but died in the House amid budget uncertainties from the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, Mississippi teachers received a $1,500 raise.

The raise would cost taxpayers about $51 million a year, Senate Education Chairman Dennis DeBar Jr., a Republican from Leaksville, said. He noted that a recent report shows the state’s roughly $6 billion budget is running about $325 million above revenue estimates. He and Hosemann said state finances appear sound and the state can afford the teacher raise.


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Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.