How much would public school wish list cost?

By Steve Wilson
April 11, 2019

Giving Mississippi public school teachers a pay hike greater than the one passed by the legislature and spending vastly more on K-12 education would hit the state’s budget with a $385 million hammer blow.

The Republican-led legislature passed a teacher pay raise in the final days of the session that will increase teacher pay by $1,500 will cost $58 million annually. House Speaker Philip Gunn said Monday that the legislature is committed to appropriating that amount annually to cover it and that it isn’t a one-time pay hike.

Mississippi teachers have the nation’s lowest average salary ($44,926), but when cost of living numbers utilized by the North Carolina-based John Locke Foundation are used, the state’s teacher salaries now rank 35th nationally and 34thafter the pay hike takes effect.

Analyzing data shows that the $4,000 raise sought by Democrats during the final days of the session would cost $154 million annually. Adjusting the average ($49,574) for cost of living after this hypothetical $4,000 raise would move Mississippi up to 26th nationally.

Even with a $4,000 pay hike, the cost-adjusted average salary for Mississippi teachers would still trail Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas and Alabama in the southeast region.

That’s not all that public education advocates claim that the state needs. They seek a massive salary increase for teachers and “full funding” for K-12 education under the Mississippi Adequate Education formula.

Increasing the general fund K-12 education budget to the amount dictated by MAEP ($2.477 billion) would add up to about $231 million. Combined with the money required for a $4,000 teacher pay raise and the bill would add up to $385 million.

This increase would be as much as the state’s debt service ($385 million) and more than the entire budgets for:

The complex MAEP formula is designed to increase every year despite declining enrollment in Mississippi public schools.

It also doesn’t include some education programs or revenue from the state’s sales tax deposited in the Education Enhancement Fund ($299 million in fiscal 2018, with $214 million going to K-12) that is split between K-12, community colleges and universities.

Thanks to a state Supreme Court decision in 2017, the MAEP is no more than a funding request for the state’s public schools by the state Department of Education. The legislature isn’t compelled to follow its funding guidelines when appropriating for K-12 education.


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