I’m a teacher… That’s what I do. I also realize that I have made education my profession. As the saying goes, which I think is very weak leadership, by the way (and please do not tell people this), many will say, “You signed up for this.” Yes, I did. I chose to be an educator. Why, you ask? There are different reasons here and there, but ultimately, I still believe that education is that one last stronghold society has to help straighten the path for our future.

Mississippi’s legislatures are back in session starting this week. As usual, there are many topics on the agenda… Doing away with the state income tax, Medicare/Medicaid, marijuana, CRT, Redistricting and a few other issues, and somewhere in that conversation – raising teacher pay at all or much more to the southeast average. What’s the average? Where are we?  Look at this comment…

According to the Southern Regional Education Board, the average teacher salary in the U.S. for 2018-19 was $62,304. For Mississippi, the average was $45,105, approximately $8,200 below the southeastern region average.¹

Currently, according to NEA Research of April 2021, it seems the Mississippi average is $46,843.² 


First, let me say, I appreciate the effort that Senator Dennis Debar, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has taken in his willingness to go to all four congressional districts and hear from educators. What he has heard is possibly the old adage, “You spend your money on what you value.” Translated… Does the State of Mississippi value its teachers? For those who do not know, a quick web search of teacher salaries will show that Mississippi is the bottom part of the list!

Also, let me say that every teacher I know appreciates the $1,000 bump in pay we received last year from both houses in the legislature. That helps when wanting to attract new teachers and others into the profession. We all know we have a teacher shortage. While talking about that, I would add that since we seem to have a teacher retention problem, I would suggest we dare not forget those already teaching teachers and decided to stay. When we start losing our veteran teachers, there really will be a teacher shortage.

Well, let’s look at it like this… According to the Mississippi Department of Education Salary Schedule for the 21-22 school year, the starting salary for a teacher with zero years experience and a single A license, Bachelor’s degree is $37,000. Now, understand this does not include local district supplements (that’s a whole different conversation for another time). This salary of $37,000 remains the same for their first three years of teaching (remember there are taxes held out of this amount also). Upon entering year four of teaching, three years experience, they get a “step-pay” raise of a whopping $385. Year five brings the pay up to $37,880, a smooth “step-pay” of a $495 “raise.” It takes five years of experience for a single A license teacher to achieve a pay increase of $1,000. It takes nine years of experience to get to the $40,000 mark ($40,355, to be exact).

So… how do teachers really get raises? No, it’s not the “step-pay.” Most teachers who want to get a raise end up paying for their own raises. What? Pay for your own raise; that sounds stupid. Yes, they go back to school to obtain an advanced degree. After teaching four to five years, thinking out loud, I would say that most teachers decide to go back and get their Master’s in education, an AA degree. So… let’s do some figuring… 

After year five of teaching, you decide to go back to school to get that Master’s degree. Let’s say it takes you two years to complete, so that puts us at year seven of teaching now with six years of experience. Also, let’s say the average cost of a Master’s degree is between $10,000 – $12,000, and odds are that money has to be borrowed. Year seven with an A license pays $39,365; with an AA license, the pay increases to $42,580. So… it costs a teacher approximately $10,000 to get a $3,215 raise. Now, I can hear some people say, “Well, now they are on the AA scale.” Yes, you are correct, but… it takes 22 years of “step-pay” of teaching to cover that $10,000 spent to get that Master’s degree of education. 

Most educators stop there. Why? Well, it could be that some choose not to continue due to the cost of more schooling for a Specialist of Education degree (Ed.S.), another $10,000 – $15,000, by the way, and then a doctorate after that. Those who pursue these advanced degrees make unbelievable sacrifices of time and money, not only for themselves but also for their families. Now, I will say advanced degrees in education can open other doors… to administration (which pays more) and possibly teaching classes at the college level (which ends up being a second job, per se). With that all being said, the only way I see a teacher making more money is… obtain advanced degrees, take on more responsibilities (supplements), or stay in teaching longer to take advantage of the lucrative “step-pay” increases every year. Also, a teacher can become a National Board Certified Teacher. This is an excellent deal for it pays an additional $6,000 for teachers for five years with the opportunity to recertify, and the state will reimburse the initial fees upon receipt of passing scores.

My good friend, Nason Lollar, made these statements last week in his blog  What Is The Vision For Teacher Pay In Mississippi?

The word can’t is one of the most misused words in our language. It is often used when the word won’t is more accurate. 

As in… We can’t raise teacher pay high enough. Everyone there that night had heard that idea before.

We didn’t get any more details on that sentiment. But I had to conclude, based on other answers the Chairman gave, that the political will to give teachers a real raise just isn’t there. I hope I’m wrong, because that is a damning statement on the priorities of our state government. In the past three years this group has changed the rules to start up a state lottery, and actually suspended their rules (requiring supermajority plus one approval in BOTH HOUSES) to remove the Confederate battle emblem from our flag! These were two of the most controversial issues of my lifetime.

I agree with the can’t = won’t, basically meaning “choose not to.” As with anything in our lives, we do what we want to and spend money on what we want to, especially if there is value or benefits to personal well-being. However, “value” seems to be loosely defined by many in the legislature when the topic of increasing teachers’ salaries is mentioned. More importantly, for me, the question has to be… why not, and then there are either no answers or the mumbling starts. And, it appears that we can even change the rules… It seems we will spend money on almost anything education-wise except for teachers. We will spend money on programs, initiatives, testing, testing for testing, etc. Let’s just throw this out there, the Mississippi Statewide Assessment System is funded in the amount of $11 million³ – for testing (and that brings up another conversation for a later date). 

I have often heard that you cannot pay teachers enough. Ok, I get that. It can also be said for many other occupations. I enjoy being an educator, and I will continue to be one. They say you cannot put a price tag on the future… I say we can (or chose not to), but at what cost and to whom will it be? Our future needs the best educators, and there are probably many who would be great teachers but decided not to be one or decided to leave the profession for many different reasons. I hope that money was not one of the reasons why… but then…

If you are interested in other thoughts that go along with this topic of valuing education, just click the link…

Education’s Biggest Problem

The Intrinsic Value of Teaching…

These are the times that try educator’s souls…

Teaching, an Appreciation?

The Call of Teaching

Teacher A̶p̶p̶r̶e̶c̶i̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ Value

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2022 J Clay Norton

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¹ https://apnews.com/article/business-education-mississippi-teacher-pay-93eeac91ccd762f04debb5839e1adb42

² https://tpcref.org/wp-content/uploads/NEA_2021-Rankings_and_Estimates_Report.pdf

³ https://www.mdek12.org/sites/default/files/mde-k12_fy_22_budget_request_lbo.pdf