Teacher Appreciation Week and teacher pay

Source: MGN
Source: MGN(WTOK)
Published: May. 7, 2018 at 6:33 PM CDT
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During Teacher Appreciation Week, we're taking a look at the pay of Mississippi teachers. Protests and strikes by teachers have happened in recent weeks in West Virginia, Kentucky, Colorado, Arizona and Oklahoma, all in the name of higher pay and better school funding.

"Educators are overworked and underpaid," said Dr. Akemi Stout, president of the Jackson Federation of Teachers.

That same phrase comes up every time lawmakers are back in town for the legislative session.

"Teachers right now. They're fed up. They're fed up," said Stout. "They're really fed up."

Gov. Phil Bryant signed a teacher pay raise into law in 2014. But still, Mississippi's pay is lower than all states except South Dakota.

The National Education Association lists the average salary at $42,744. The most recent report from the state superintendent raises that average by less than $2,000.

"You don't want to say that word that begins with an 's' and ends with an 'e' and has an 'ike' to it. You don't want to say that but a lot of teachers across the nation have gone there," said Stout.

Teacher organization can't invoke a strike but can inform their members of their rights. But that's the sticking point. A strike is technically illegal here.

Mississippi teachers did strike back in 1985. The pressure on lawmakers got them the raise they wanted. But the legislature turned around and passed a law banning teachers from future strikes.

"That doesn't help us now."

People I spoke with were on board with finding more money for the state's teachers.

"Mississippi teachers are underpaid. They're well underpaid. I would appreciate it if they could get a raise."

"In order to keep them, you've got to pay them," said former teacher Charles Richardson. "Because if not, they're going to go elsewhere."

The Mississippi Parents' Campaign says it's not just pay but the overall lack of education funding that's pushing people out of the teaching field.

"We are demanding more and more and more of teachers but as a state we are refusing to provide them the resources they need to do the things we're asking them to do," said Nancy Loome, executive director of The Parents' Campaign.

It should be noted that strikes are technically illegal in some of these other states that have done so. It just took enough organization to say, what will happen if mass numbers of teachers walk out?

There is nothing in Mississippi's state law that would prevent rallies or community meetings of some sort.