Teacher pay is often touted as a reason why Mississippi teachers leave the state, especially new teachers.
But according to two teachers who have left Mississippi for surrounding states, money was barely the tip of the iceberg.
Jane Stone (*Name changed by request) was a teacher in the Simpson County School District. She said that a lack of growth and support contributed to her decision to leave. She now teaches high school in Louisiana.
“I was never given a mentor teacher to guide me,” said Stone. “The superintendent came around a couple of times a year. That was the extent of it.”
Stone taught for three years and said that oftentimes, new teachers aren’t exactly sure what they need to ask for due to lack of experience.
“Without being highly certified, a new teacher will not know what to ask for in the classroom,” said Stone.
Samantha Daniel* had a similar experience. She taught for Jackson Public Schools before taking a hiatus from the profession altogether. She now teaches elementary school in Alabama.
“There was no sense of community or leadership within our schools,” said Daniel. “It was purely run by the kids.”
Daniel said she could not find support outside of the school either.
“I always used to dread calling the state office,” said Daniel. “They acted overwhelmingly rude and made it seem like you were a waste of their time.”
Resources and Growth
Stone said that during her time in Simpson County Schools, there was a severe lack of resources for students and teachers.
“At the time there were not enough books for each child to have one and some of the material was extremely difficult,” said Stone. “There also wasn’t enough working technology to complete some assignments such as research papers.”
Stone said another resource was greatly lacking: the knowledge and resources to help students with special needs within the classroom.
“I never saw it in my district. When I approached the SPED department I was placated with words that never manifested,” said Stone.
Opportunities for growth were also very limited for Stone.
“It wasn’t within the district unless you were in sports. Any educational training had to found on my own. I also took classes at a local university,” said Stone. She added that policies were often unclear and there was very little additional training.
“No explanation was given,” Stone added. “Much of my training on procedures was on my own, trial and error if you will. “
The constant battery of state testing also drove the teachers to pursue other career choices.
“For my lower classmen, all of it (teaching) was focused on test-taking skills,” said Stone.
Daniel said the system is much different in Alabama.
“The state testing in Mississippi was horrible,” said Daniel. “In Alabama, there’s only one test for high schoolers, the ACT, which is used in the real world. Not a Biology I or History test. So the teachers are able to teach and express themselves through teaching and the state doesn’t question it.”
While neither Stone nor Daniel mentioned pay as an original reason for leaving the Mississippi public school system, Daniel did outline the differences.
“I have noticed that the benefits in Alabama are better,” said Daniel. “After moving to Alabama, I can tell you that new teachers, on a state level, are paid $5300 more a year than Mississippi’s new teachers.”
Alabama teachers have what is called PEEHIP (Public Education Employee Health Insurance Policy) which is offered to all public education employees.
While not going into detail, Daniel said the premiums and deductibles are “amazing.”
“Also, Alabama Educators Association offers some of the same perks as Mississippi Educators Association but in Alabama, we are able to get cheap vision insurance at eight dollars a month,” said Daniel. “Last year AEA fought for a 2.5% raise and won their case.”
Daniel said that Mississippi could learn a lesson from Alabama about teacher retention.
“Until Mississippi finally gets it together, folks are gonna keep leaving. It’s sad that I’m only in the next state over and getting better pay and benefits,” said Daniel. “Mississippi shouldn’t be struggling as hard as it is. It won’t stop until someone steps up for education rather than going along with the legality of education or stops tolerating threats from the state. Honestly, Mississippi needs its own form of remediation. Alabama isn’t any better when it comes to statistics but they sure as heck know how to treat their teachers better than Mississippi.”