Teachers Hopeful They'll Get Their State Raises

Janice Wilson has spent the last seven years teaching children at Biloxi's Lopez Elementary School.

"I'm in the classroom because I love what I do," she said.

The kindergarten teacher doubts whether she'll see much of the state funded pay raise that's supposed to bump the average Mississippi teachers' salary from $31,000 to $41,000.

"I'm kind of hesitant because I feel that it's probably not going to take place," Wilson said. "But I'm not upset, because that's not why I'm in the classroom."

But Sheba Brown is upset.

"It disturbs me so that our society places more value on professional sports than they do on education," Brown said.

Sheba Brown is a former state teacher of the year. She believes that good instructors will only remain in classrooms if Mississippi follows through with the five year pay raise it approved in 2000. Brown believes that the pay raise "is something that is so well deserved. And it's so long overdue."

Glenn Ellis is a Biloxi P.E. teacher who agrees with his colleague.

"They need to be rewarded for the jobs that they do," he said, "because we are responsible for the future."

Sheba Brown's biggest concern is that current salaries aren't enough to attract and keep the best teachers.

"I've seen teachers leave the teaching profession in Biloxi and Mississippi every single year. And the bottom line is money."

Money won't teach children how to read. But teachers say a guaranteed pay raise up to the southeast average will help schools recruit and keep the best educators in the state.

State lawmakers do have $20 million budgeted to fund the first year of teacher pay raises. How they handle future pay hikes will be debated during the 2001 legislative session.