LEXINGTON, MS (WLBT) - The legislature is still considering whether to give teachers a raise and how much it would be. While they’re debating, one county is considering asking its own residents to pay up.
Holmes County may be the poorest county in the state, but the school district’s not exempt from the impacts of low teacher pay.
“Why would they come here?” asked Superintendent Dr. James Henderson. “Let’s give them something to come here for, Mississippi. Now is that time. It’s that time in Holmes County. It’s that time in the state of Mississippi. We must do better.”
Many have called the first legislative proposal of $500 for two years an insult. While they’re pleased to see that bumped up to 4,000 in the latest round of changes, they’re not settling.
“$4,000 is OK but we need more,” said special education teacher Ravi Dutt.
In Holmes County, they’re taking matters into their own hands, regardless of whether the state approves a pay raise. They’ll be putting a bond referendum on the ballot in August that would allow teachers to get an across the board $5,000 raise.
“Over a two year period, our teachers here in Holmes County could potentially see as much as $46,000 starting pay," said Henderson. "However, please understand that’s still not a lot of money for teachers.”
Teachers say there’s no way to stick around if your heart’s not in it.
“I can tell you especially 1-5 year teachers who are working in these buildings, they have second jobs," noted high school assistant principal Terrell Thomas. "There’s no way they can survive off the one income they have.”
“I don’t have a second job but I do drive about 45 minutes on the way here and back," added Coach Luana Greer. "So, a little over an hour and change to get back and forth to work everyday. But I’ve been in the district for 13 years. I do it for the love of the kids, not necessarily for the pay, but that would most definitely help.”
Coach Luana Greer has had chances to leave but chose to stay, unlike some colleagues.
“We’ve lost a lot of good teachers because of pay,” noted Greer.
But they’re hoping that trend can change.