Meridian Star

Editorials

April 6, 2014

Teacher pay raises step in right direction

MERIDIAN — We were glad to see the Mississippi Legislature passed a much-needed pay raise for the state's teachers.

    Teachers will get a $1,500 raise beginning July 1, and a $1,000 raise on July 1, 2015. The estimated cost for the raises the first year is $60 million.

    It is money well spent.

    As we stated here in a previous editorial, the last time teachers were given an across-the-board pay raise was in 2007. During the 2011-12 school year, only teachers in South Dakota earned less than those in Mississippi in a National Education Association ranking of average teacher pay.

        The average salary of instructional staff in Mississippi during 2011-12 was $44,651, according to an NEA study. In comparison, the average salary of teachers in Alabama was $50,039. Teachers in Arkansas earned on average $49,927, while teachers in Louisiana were paid an average of $52,611. The national average was $57,218.

    Keeping teachers here is problematic when they can go to neighboring states and earn higher pay. It is a real problem.    

    According to the Mississippi Department of Education, there are 48 school districts in 29 counties in the state facing a critical shortage of teachers, including that of Kemper County. Better pay is needed to attract more people to the teaching profession and keep them in the classroom.

    Under the plan approved by the state Legislature, in the third year the state would give $100 per student to schools rating "A" on the state's A-F grading system, or to schools moving up a letter grade. The money would be split among the school's teachers and employees, but administrators and principals would be excluded.

    As we have stated here before, we have no issue with merit pay as long as it does not punish teachers at inner city schools where students have to work much harder to catch up.

    The bill pledges to develop a pay plan before 2016-17 that would provide incentives for "high-performing" teachers to remain in lower-rated schools. We hope that plan comes to pass. An exodus of veteran teachers to higher performing schools is all too common in school districts across the state — and the nation.

    Tenured and more experienced teachers often migrate to higher performing schools where there is less stress in meeting standardized test scores, leaving younger, less experienced teachers just entering the profession to teach at struggling schools.

    Poor, urban schools are where our most experienced teachers are needed most.

    The Mississippi Legislature took a big step in the right direction in approving a much needed pay raise for teachers in the state. Now, real financial incentives are needed to encourage veteran teachers to remain at inner city schools.

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