Teacher pay may not be the only deterrent for individuals leaving the profession or choosing not to enter it. 

The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to hear from experts across the board on the reality of a teacher pay raise in Mississippi.

The committee heard from the Mississippi Department of Education, Department of Finance and Administration, Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS), University Research Center, and the Southern Regional Education Board.

Dr. Felicia Gavin, Chief Operating Officer for MDE, and Pete Smith, Office of Communications and Legislative Services, outlined how Mississippi teachers are currently paid based on policy.

Teachers receive pay based on what year into their teacher career they are in as well as the highest level of licensing they hold. Currently, teachers in the 0-3 year ranking make a base salary of $37,000 annually which is roughly $8,000 below the Southeastern average.

The average salary of a Mississippi teacher is reported at just under $47,000 annually.

Teachers are paid using the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) through local, state and federal funding.

However, what teachers are making on a base level is not the only issue the profession is facing in Mississippi and across the U.S. in terms of retaining and recruiting educators.

The Southern Regional Education Board, representing 16 states, said that pay is the fifth greatest reason that teachers are leaving the profession. President Dr. Stephen Pruitt said their data indicates that you also have to take into account actual take home pay after insurance, personal expenses and retirement costs.

The Department of Finance and Administration went over the current health and life insurance premiums that are provided to teachers across the state. An extreme increase for family coverage was noted for Mississippi teachers compared to neighboring states.

State Sen. Brice Wiggins (R) asked why that was the case and pointed out that there might be some policy regarding insurance that may need to be addressed to help increase teacher take home pay.

In the state’s plan, employees cover 65% while the state covers 35% for families even though the individual coverage is vastly lower than most others in the region.

The Southern Regional Education Board also covered this fact. They recommended that the state up their contribution in order to offset the high family premium costs. Because Mississippi’s insurance coverage is set to impact all state employees, they instead recommended offering a health benefit stipend to teachers to avoid separating the plans and potentially costing the state more.

The board did a comparison of what teachers take home pay in their first, 15th and 35th year of teaching would look like. It is shown below.