Teachers pleased to be having their voices heard by lawmakers

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 10:45 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -Teachers have long complained that they want to weigh in when lawmakers start talking about pay and shortage issues. Now, they’re getting that chance.

They seemed to have built some momentum that started during the last statewide election cycle. More of them decided they would no longer be afraid to speak up about pay. But then COVID came along and added to their issues.

Teachers aren’t getting rich in any state. But in Mississippi, the pay puts many teachers behind the eight ball on providing the basics.

“Primarily, most importantly, teachers want to be respected,” explained Kelly Riley, Mississippi Professional Educators Executive Director. “And they want to be compensated fairly for the work that they do.”

Mississippi’s starting teacher salary is $3,300 below the average starting salary of teachers in the southeastern region. 82-hundred below the overall average.

“Certainly, it’s not something that we can do one time and then leave it there because other states are also realizing all states pay teachers too little,” noted The Parents’ Campaign Executive Director Nancy Loome. “And so other states are addressing this as well. So, we’re really chasing a moving target when trying to catch up with the southeastern average.”

And the teachers have been more emboldened in recent years to speak up and demand a change.

“I certainly think that when teachers’ input is solicited that that is a direct example of the results of that work,” said Riley. “And so in turn, I think that encourages even more teachers to speak up and to have their voices heard.”

She’s referring to the listening sessions being held around the state by the Senate Education Chairman. The pay issue is also closely aligned with the shortage of teachers statewide.

“We’re finding difficulties, and obviously, your upper-level mathematics and sciences,” noted Lauderdale County Superintendent Dr. John Mark Cain. “And I think that is really coming down to a pay issue. You know, those who are higher-level science or mathematics are going into engineering.”

Lauderdale County Superintendent Dr. John Mark Cain says they’ve put more mentoring in place because they realize that the biggest issue of teachers leaving happens when they’re still early in their career.

“We do we have to be mindful and provide those influences and those supports to keep them here and to make them realize how great the teaching profession really is,” said Cain.

Mississippi teachers got a $1,500 raise in 2019. Plans for the next year were derailed by COVID. And then lawmakers approved a $1,000 pay raise. Newer teachers will receive $1,100. But lawmakers have said they’re committed to looking at ways to continue to improve the salaries.

Upcoming Teacher Listening Sessions with the Senate Education Chairman Dennis DeBar:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 10, 5:30 p.m. - Tupelo (1st Congressional District) In-person: Tupelo Public School District, 445 N. Church Street, Tupelo Link to attend virtually: Meeting ID: 839 1227 8165 Dial-in: +1 312.626.6799
  • Thursday, Nov. 18, 5:30 p.m. - Greenville (2nd Congressional District) In-person: Greenville Higher Education Center, 2900A Highway 1 South, Greenville Link to attend virtually: Meeting ID: 840 4477 4529 Dial-in: +1 312.626.6799
  • Thursday, Dec. 9, 5:30 p.m. - Madison (3rd Congressional District) In-person: Madison Central High School Auditorium, 1417 Highland Colony Parkway, Madison Link to attend virtually: Meeting ID: 856 3284 9818 Dial-in: +1 312.626.6799

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