Teacher salary ranking jumps when adjusted for cost of living

By Steve Wilson
April 3, 2019

Mississippi teachers make less than their counterparts nationally in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, but when Mississippi’s low cost of living is taken into account, the state’s rank jumps to 35th nationally.

The John Locke Foundation performed an analysis using data from the National Education Association and adjusting the salaries using cost of living indices from the Council for Community & Economic Research (C2ER).

The same process can be applied to salaries taking into account the new $1,500 raise passed by the legislature. Mississippi is still the nation’s lowest average salary ($47,074) when 3 percent salary increases are given to the other states.

The state’s average-paid teacher ($45,574) will receive a 3.29 percent bump from the pay hike, which will cost taxpayers more than $58 million annually.

With the data adjusted for the cost of living ($54,929 in Mississippi), the post-pay hike average teacher salary jumps to 34th, ahead of states such as New Hampshire, Montana, New Mexico and Virginia.

In the Southeast, the adjusted salaries rankings put Mississippi ahead of South Carolina ($52,802.71) and Florida ($50,401.26), but behind Georgia ($64,529.73), Tennessee ($59,514.44), Arkansas ($59,445.21), North Carolina ($59,142.82), Alabama ($58,474.08), and Louisiana ($56,037.06).

If Mississippi’s average teacher salary was increased to $50,132 (10 percent increase), the state’s ranking would increase to 17th nationally ($58,497 with cost of living adjustment) and it would be the second-highest among Southeastern states behind Georgia (ranked 9th with an adjusted annual salary of $62,650).

The average teacher salary nationally is $63,635.46 when adjusted for cost of living.

Mississippi has the lowest cost of living nationally, while Hawaii, District of Columbia, California, New York and Massachusetts are highest nationally, according to the C2ER.

The House and Senate approved the conference report on Senate Bill 2770 on Thursday. The raise started as $1,000 raise phased in over two years and was increased in conference. Attempts to recommit the bill by Democrats in both chambers failed on largely party-line votes.

Some have called the $1,500 raise a “betrayal,” a “joke” and a “slap in the face.”

This is the third teacher pay hike since 2000. The legislature passed a $337 million plan in 2000 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. This is before local supplements, which can be several thousand dollars more per year in certain school districts.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly salary in Mississippi is $752 or $39,104 annually.


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