Teacher pay in county above state average

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 1, 2018

While Mississippi currently ranks in the bottom five states for teacher pay, teachers working in local school districts still make more than the state average.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Mississippi’s average salary for teachers is $42,925. The only state in the nation that ranked below Mississippi during the 2016-2017 school year was South Dakota, which averaged $42,668.

The state minimum for an A-level certified teacher, which is the minimum certification level required to teach, is $34,390. Every year, after the first two years of work, the state provides a yearly pay increase depending on experience and level of certification. For a teacher to earn more than the state minimum, they must rely on additional supplements from their district of employment.

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According to statistics by the Mississippi Department of Education, in the 2016-2017 school year, every district in Pearl River County gave their teachers enough supplements to provide them with an above average salary.

Picayune Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell said their school district provides teachers with a hefty district supplement as well as a yearly pay increase. The Picayune School District adds $2,100 to the base teacher’s salary for those with an A-level certification. In addition, Harrell said every year the Board of Trustees approves a pay raise across the board.

While the Picayune School District currently pays its teachers an above average salary, Harrell said he would like to be able to do more.

“We would like to be able to pay our teachers a lot more than we do but it’s just not in our budget,” Harrell said.

MDE statistics show that the Picayune School District paid its teachers an average of $44,276 during the 2016-2017 school year.

Poplarville Superintendent Carl Merritt said the Poplarville School District provides all of its starting teachers with an annual supplement of $1,400 on top of the state minimum. He said that is the case for all certified staff with little to no experience. He said every five years, a teacher’s supplement will increase by $100. At five years a teacher will receive a supplement of $1,500, at 10 years a teacher will receive a supplement of $1,600 etc. This amount continues to increase until a teacher has reached 25 years of experience, at which point their yearly supplement is capped at $1,900.

“We try to compensate them the best we can,” Merritt said.

He said while he thinks a way to increase teacher pay should be looked into, teacher pay is a conversation that will go on for years to come. On the district-level, Merritt said the Poplarville School District is dependent on the state’s funding formula for teacher salaries. While the District receives a lot of grant money, Merritt said that money is put toward student programs, rather than faculty pay.

According to MDE statistics, in the 2016-2017 school year, the Poplarville School District provided its teachers with the highest pay in the county, with an average salary of $45,607.

In the Pearl River County School District, Superintendent Alan Lumpkin said their district gives first-year teachers a supplement of $1,100. This supplement increases by $100 each year with a final cap of $1,700. Lumpkin said teacher supplements increased last year after it was voted to raise the supplement by $500. 

MDE statistics state that the PRC School District pays its teachers an average salary of $43,316 – the lowest in the county. However, while this is the lowest pay rate in the county, the rate is still more than the Mississippi state average of $42,925.

“Teachers are very much underpaid with the amount of work and increased accountability. I totally support our state looking into increasing teacher salaries, as well as funding options. Teaching is the mother of all professions,” Lumpkin said.