Mississippi teacher's pay doesn't reflect their impact on lives

Alexandra Woolbright


For most of us, teachers have been a part of our lives for as long as we can remember. From elementary school to college, an educator has been there helping young people to progress forward in life in the hopes that one day we will become productive members of society.

In my case, education has played a much more important role, as my mother has been teaching for almost 18 years now.

Growing up with a teacher as a mother, most people were shocked to realize she had a life outside of the classroom. And like many other normal mothers, mine contributes to the family’s income, but working at a public school isn’t enough.

Looking at each classroom pod in New Hope High School, I could point out several individuals who, like my mother, have sought side jobs to help pay the bills. Selling cosmetics, driving buses or teaching fitness classes, numerous teachers seek to find revenue to bring in more money. Do these people wish to seek multiple jobs? No, but sometimes that’s the only way.

As reported in the Clarion Ledger, teachers in Mississippi are nationally among the lowest-paid and since 2007 haven’t had an across-the-board raise. In 2011-2012 making a little more than $41, 600, they had the second-lowest average salary in the nation. Starting salaries for Mississippi teachers are a little below $31,000, with an annual “step” increase beginning at $495 per year.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released in August of this year, a middle-income couple would pay an estimated $241, 080 to raise a child born last year for the next 18 years. That’s over $13,000 a year to raise a single child. This means that it takes around one-third of a teacher’s annual salary to support one child each year. This does not include families like mine who have multiples. In fact, on the gross numbers alone, my mother would not be able to support our family with her sole income.

So I must ask, why is it that the people who dedicate their lives to creating the next politicians, lawyers and doctors of the world are the lowest paid?

Many teachers have been speaking out about this issue. Most recently, many participated in a protest on January 20 at the Capitol to rally for a pay raise.

While some, like House Speaker Phillip Gunn, are reportedly advocating a raise for teachers, others, like Gov. Phil Bryant are not. Bryant opposes an across-the-board pay raise in favor of a merit-based system based on performance.