Mississippi’s $1,500 teacher pay increase will cost $18.5 million more than the legislature originally budgeted, according to a news release from the Mississippi Department of Education.

The legislature appropriated $58,442,743 based on calculations submitted by the MDE. Those original calculations said there were 31,157 teaching positions. The actual number was 40,991 and the raise will cost taxpayers $76.9 million annually.

State Rep. Richard Bennett (R-Long Beach) chairs the House Education Committee. He said in a news release that the House leadership is supportive of funding the deficit and ensuring the districts won’t be required to absorb any costs associated with the pay hike.

The legislature can act with a deficit appropriation to cover the $18.5 million when it returns to session in January.

The MDE says it conducted an additional review of the number of state-funded teaching positions and that there were additional positions eligible for the increase that weren’t in the Mississippi Student Information System as ones funded by the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the funding formula that determines how state funds are distributed to the school districts.

The problem lies in the MSIS system, which has issues with its interoperability with district systems for data. The issues forced MDE to recount the number of raise-eligible teaching positions by hand.

The legislature appropriated $500,000 as part of MDE’s outlay to start the process on upgrading it.

The expanded list of teaching positions in addition to classroom teachers, counselors, teacher assistants and librarians includes specialized positions such as dyslexia therapists, audiologists and psychologists.

This is the third teacher pay hike provided statewide since 2000. Individual districts are free to provide pay increases in addition to what the state provides.

The first of the most recent pay raises was passed by the legislature in 2000, a $337 million plan that was phased in over six years. 

In 2014, the legislature passed a two-year plan that increased teacher pay $1,500 in the first year and $1,000 in the second year, costing taxpayers an additional $100 million.

Teachers in Mississippi receive annual raises after their first three years on the job and also receive pay hikes for earning higher certifications. A teacher in the lowest certification level starts at $34,390, increasing to $39,108 for the highest certification level. 

A teacher with 20 years of experience will earn $43,300, while the highest classification nets $53,400.