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‘It’s long overdue’: South Mississippi teachers react to possible pay increase

After months of debating, Mississippi senators and representatives agreed on a $246 million proposal that would raise teachers’ salaries by more than $5,000.
Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 10:32 PM CDT
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ST. MARTIN, Miss. (WLOX) - Educators in Mississippi have something exciting to cheer about: a possible change to teachers’ salaries.

After months of debating, state senators and representatives agreed on Wednesday to a $246 million proposal that would raise teachers’ salaries by more than $5,000. Other features of the plan include raises of a few hundred dollars each year, with larger raises every fifth year.

St. Martin High’s science teacher and track coach Yennette Smith said it’s time for the possibility to become a reality.

“It’s very important for us. It’s long overdue and I think the teachers in the state deserve it,” she said.

Smith said people don’t realize how many hours are clocked outside of the classroom, as well as spending money from their own pockets.

“Yes, we get money from the state for our classrooms, but that money does run out,” she said.

Smith said she’ll make ends meet if it means making her students smile.

“There’s so many sensitive cases that come about from those students and the relationships that we have with them. It’s necessary for us to pour out of our hearts and out of our pockets to do so,” she said.

While she personally knows people who left the career, Gautier High English teacher Josi Mackenzie hopes the raise will reboot the profession.

“This is going to bring a lot of people to our state, want to stay here, and build our future,” she said.

Whether teachers officially get the pay raise or not, Smith said she will continue on, looking at each student as her own child as her motivation to keep going.

“I love teaching. A lot of times people don’t think that we love what we do, but we do. Even through the hard years of the profession, you just have to push forward,” she said.

Teachers’ salaries between years five and 20 would receive a larger increase from $1,200 and over $1,300 based on their certification.

To see a breakdown of what the salary increase will look like if approved, click here.

Senate and House members of the conference committee signed off on the deal Wednesday. Each chamber will still need to vote on this latest report before it can be sent to the Governor. To read that report in full, click here.

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