A proposal that would provide teachers an average salary increase of $4,700 over two years passed both the Senate Education and Appropriations committees Thursday and could be considered by the full Senate as early as Friday morning.

The House already has passed its teacher pay proposal and sent it to the Senate. The leadership of both chambers have said providing a substantial pay raise for teachers is one of their top priorities during the 2022 session. Either plan, if passed, would represent one of the largest pay raises for teachers in history.

More than likely, a combination of the two plans will ultimately pass during the 2022 session and be sent to Gov. Tate Reeves, who has said he supports a teacher pay raise, though his plan is for a smaller increase than what is being proposed by legislators.

The plan passed out of the Education Committee Thursday was first proposed by the chamber’s presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, and Sen. Dennis DeBar, R-Leakesville, chair of the Education Committee.

The plan is estimated to cost $210 million over two years. The money spent in the first year – $166 million – would adjust the salary ladder to provide a “significant” raise for teachers, DeBar said. The money in the second year would be to provide a $1,000 across-the-board raise for teachers.

The ladder, which is written in state law, determines the state compensation each year for teachers based on years of experience and education level. Each year, with no action from the Legislatures, teachers get a small increase – around $500 — as they garner another year of experience. Teachers also receive more pay based on their academic degrees. Currently teachers in their first three years of service do not receive an automatic increase. Under the Senate plan, they would.

The plan also would provide significantly larger raises for each five-year increment —  $1,325 for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree, $1,425 for a master’s, $1,525 for a specialist and $1,624 for a doctorate. The teachers would automatically get the larger step increases every five years and, importantly, the larger incremental increases would become part of their regular pay. Under existing law, teachers receive an additional $2,000 annually in their pay when they reach 25 years of service.

“We are giving teachers incentives to go into the profession and to stay in the profession,” DeBar said.

The House plan, which would be enacted in one year instead of the two years in the Senate bill, has an estimated costs of $219 million.

The plan would increase the starting pay for teachers from $37,000 to $43,124 annually compared to $39,897 for the region and $41,163 for the nation, according to information provided by the House leadership.

The bill also provides a $2,000 salary hike for teacher assistants. The Senate plan at this point does not provide a pay increase for teacher assistants.

Pay for Mississippi teachers, based on various metrics, is the lowest in the nation.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.