Gunn responds to teacher pay issues

Published 7:00 am Thursday, February 6, 2014

MOVING ON UP: Speaker of the House Philip Gunn held a press conference at the State Capitol to outline the House Teacher Pay Raise Plan on Monday. Members of the House joined him in the rotunda. Photo by House Public Information Office

MOVING ON UP: Speaker of the House Philip Gunn held a press conference at the State Capitol to outline the House Teacher Pay Raise Plan on Monday. Members of the House joined him in the rotunda.
Photo by House Public Information Office

This week, Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn outlined a plan to give teachers pay raises.

The Teacher Pay Raise Plan or House Bill 504 would increase the starting salary of teachers by $1,500 starting in the 2015 calendar year. The increase would be automatic for teachers in their first five years of teaching.

The bill also established 22 benchmarks to help identify those teachers who are “dedicated to their profession and to our children,” Gunn said. Any teacher who satisfies three of the 22 benchmarks would be eligible for an increase of $1,500 in the 2015 calendar year, just like the starting salary increase.

“These benchmarks are easily achievable and can be attained by any teacher who is engaged in the classroom,” Gunn said.

According to Mississippi State Economist Darrin Webb, the growth projections for Mississippi over the next three fiscal years are 4.4 percent in fiscal year 2016, 4.1 percent in fiscal year 2017 and 3.7 percent in fiscal year 2018.

“Our plan places a trigger in these budgets that says that if growth is three percent or better, then the first one percent of growth goes toward teacher pay raises,” Gunn said. “Should this growth occur, it will result in a $1,350 raise in Year 3 and a $1,400 raise in Year 4. The effect of this is that our teachers will have received a $4,200 raise by July 1, 2018.”

The House Education Committee approved the plan outlined by Gunn on Monday.

The plan would increase spending on statewide teacher pay by about $180 million over four years.

The Mississippi Association of Educators has said they would like to see all teachers receive a $9,000 raise over five years.

“We would like for the starting salary for a teacher to be $40,000,” MAE President Joyce Helmick told the Associated Press. Most involved in the debate agree that the current minimum of $30,900 is too low.

Currently, Mississippi ranks as the second lowest in the amount teachers are paid. South Dakota is the only state that teacher average salary is less than Mississippi.

The National Education Association reports that Mississippi teachers make an average of $41,975 with a starting salary of $31,187.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)