To say this has been a big week for teacher pay would be an understatement. On Monday, Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann and Senate Education Chair Dennis DeBar announced a proposal to restructure the state’s teacher salary schedule in a way that would, according to Hosemann and DeBar, provide an average raise of $4,700 over two years. Not to be outdone, House Education Chair Richard Bennett promptly submitted House Bill 530, the Strategically Accelerating the Recruitment and Retention of Teachers (START) Act of 2022, which would raise the starting salary for teachers by $6,000 in a single year. The House passed HB 530 on Wednesday, January 12 by a margin of 114-6. 

Both proposals call for significant investments in Mississippi teachers. The Senate plan calls for an additional $210 million in annual spending on teacher salaries (an extra $166 million in the first year, and an extra $44 million in the second) while HB 530 calls for an additional $219 million annually, beginning this year. Below, we answer some basic questions about each proposal based on the information released by Lt. Governor and DeBar as well as contained in the committee-passed version of HB 530.

Do these proposals align with recommendations made by Mississippi First for teacher pay?

Yes for both, mostly. Although different, each proposal guarantees at least a $3,000 across-the-board pay raise for Mississippi teachers, which meets our recommendation. However, neither bill includes a discussion of a stipend for teachers in critical shortage areas. Our financial aid recommendations are outside the scope of this bill. Continue reading for more explanation.

How would the Senate proposal change the salary schedule for teachers?

Currently, teachers with a bachelor’s degree (Class A license) earn a salary of $37,000 for their first three years in the profession. After receiving a $385 step raise in Year 4 ($37,385), they go on to earn $495 step raises each year thereafter. (The one exception is a $2,060 step raise they receive in Year 26).

The proposed salary schedule would bump the starting salary to $39,000 in 2022-2023 and to $40,000 in 2023-2024, for a $3,000 raise over two years. However, the proposal adds further tweaks to the salary schedule that would allow teachers to earn higher salaries at a faster rate as their careers progress:

  • Teachers would begin receiving step raises immediately in Year 2 (rather than waiting until Year 4)
  • Yearly step raises for Class A teachers would increase to $500 (Class AA, AAA, and AAA would also receive $500 step raises, but this actually represents a slight decrease from the current salary schedule)
  • Every five years, Class A teachers would receive a step raise of $1,325 ($1,425 for Class AA, $1,525 for Class AAA, and $1,625 for Class AAAA)

The result is a salary schedule that would be less linear, but also more generous—particularly as time goes on. 

How would the House proposal change the salary schedule for teachers?

The biggest change under HB 530 would be a $6,000 increase in the starting salary for teachers with either a bachelor’s (Class A) or master’s (Class AA) degree. The starting salary for a teacher with a Class A license would be $43,000. 

Similar to the current salary schedule, teachers with a Class A license would not receive a step raise until Year 4, at which point their salary would increase by $135 (smaller than the $385 Year 4 step raise under the current schedule). They would go on to receive step raises of $245 for Years 5-10 (smaller than the $495 step raises under the current schedule), and $495 each year thereafter. (The one exception would be a $2,555 step raise they receive in Year 26). 

Importantly, HB 530 would also raise the salary for assistant teachers by $2,000, bringing the annual salary to $17,000.

How do the Senate and House proposals compare?

The Senate and House proposals would both raise teacher pay substantially—but in very different ways. To illustrate, compare the career earnings for a teacher with a Class A license under each proposed salary schedule:

HB 530 offers a much more generous starting salary, and would continue to better compensate teachers through Years 1-7. However, because teachers would not receive a step raise until Year 4 under HB 530, and because the subsequent step raises for Years 5-10 are less than half of those offered under the Senate proposal, going into Year 8 teachers would earn more annually under the Senate proposal—a premium that would grow larger as time goes on, due to more generous step raises.

A zoomed-in graph better illustrates this dynamic in the first 10 years of a teacher’s career:

In sum, the House proposal is better for early-career teachers while the Senate proposal is better for teachers who plan on teaching for their whole career, although both groups benefit under either plan compared to the current schedule. While the House proposal is somewhat front-loaded, the Senate proposal is somewhat back-loaded. Because of this, looking at cumulative earnings (i.e., total earnings throughout a teacher’s career), a teacher under the Senate proposal would begin to out-earn a teacher under the House proposal after 16 years of teaching.

What are the implications of each proposal for Mississippi’s critical teacher shortage?

The severity of Mississippi’s critical teacher shortage has worsened in recent years. There are now 96 critical shortage districts, up from 54 just two years ago. While all teachers are more than deserving of a substantial raise, it is also incumbent on lawmakers to use compensation as a tool to ameliorate these shortages in many parts of the state.

With the current state of teacher pay, any statewide raise for teachers will serve to combat Mississippi’s critical teacher shortage. In our 2020 report Nothing in the Pipes: Educator Crisis in Mississippi, we demonstrated an unusually strong relationship between average teacher pay in Mississippi (adjusted for inflation) and the number of new teachers graduating from educator preparation programs. Additionally, preliminary results from our 2021 statewide survey of teachers (forthcoming) demonstrate that teacher compensation is by far the most influential factor in teachers’ career decisions—even more so for teachers with the highest risk of attrition. This is all to say that higher pay will make it easier to attract new teachers while retaining veterans in the classroom, both key prerequisites to combating Mississippi’s critical teacher shortage.

The two proposals do emphasize different aspects of the problem. While the generous starting salary under HB 530 would act as a clear incentive for new teachers to enter the profession (which is desperately needed), generous step raises under the Senate proposal would serve to incentivize teachers to remain in Mississippi classrooms for their entire career (which is also desperately needed). What this boils down to is that the House proposal prioritizes recruitment while the Senate proposal priorities retention. But to be clear, both are important and admirable goals, and the legislature does not have to treat either as mutually exclusive.

It is important to point out, however, that neither proposal specifically prioritizes teachers in critical shortage areas. These proposals certainly benefit recruitment and retention in the state as a whole, but we should remember that Mississippi’s critical shortage is not evenly distributed across districts. In a world of limited resources, lawmakers should ask whether they should give some priority to teachers employed in the hardest-to-staff school districts. Amending either proposal to provide a supplement to teachers in critical shortage areas would be an effective way to promote recruitment and retention in those areas. Given the extent of these proposed investments, lawmakers could feasibly create a meaningful critical shortage stipend while still providing a generous raise to teachers regardless of geography—even if this means offering a slightly less generous across-the-board raise (but keeping a minimum of $3,000) in order to remain under budget.

What’s next for the proposals?

For the Senate proposal, the next step will be for lawmakers to file a bill. Given Senator DeBar and Lt. Governor Hosemann’s leadership on the Senate proposal, it is almost certain that any filed bill will pass the Senate Education Committee, which DeBar chairs. The House proposal, HB 530, passed the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday and the House floor on Wednesday.

Once each proposal passes its respective chamber, the bills will have to pass the opposite chamber. In cases like this one, the legislature uses a rule called a “strike-all” to replace the opposing chamber’s bill language with their own bill language and then passes their own bill again. The bills will usually be sent to conference afterwards and one bill will emerge with the reconciled language. A lot can happen in that process, so we have to watch the bills closely. Also critical to these proposals becoming law will be support from Governor Tate Reeves. While Governor Reeves has released a statement thanking the Senate for its work, he has not formally endorsed its proposal. The Senate proposal is more generous than the Governor’s previous call for a $3,300 increase over three years. The Governor has yet to comment on the House proposal. 

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