Columbus Municipal School District: House bill for teacher pay is major step for the future of Mississippi education

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Columbus Municipal School District administrators are praising the passage of the Mississippi House of Representatives bill that would increase teacher pay.

House Bill 530 would create the “Strategically Accelerating the Recruitment and Retention of Teachers (START) Act” designed to raise teacher salaries statewide.

Columbus Municipal School District Superintendent Dr. Cherie Labat calls it a much-needed step in the right direction for the future of education in Mississippi.

“As a first-year teacher with the Hancock public school district, we were way below the poverty line,” Dr. Labat says. “It was nearly paycheck-to-paycheck.”

Dr. Labat says that was her experience 22 years ago, and it’s a situation many Mississippi educators still find themselves in during 2022.

“As a superintendent, I see my teachers in grocery stores on the weekend and working other jobs to make do,” she says.

According to the Southern Regional Education Board, the average salary for Mississippi teachers in the 2019-2020 school year was $46,843, well below the national average of $64,133.

It’s estimated that the Columbus Municipal School District loses more than 50 teachers every year.

“We do have a big turnover rate each year,” says Columbus Middle School teacher Carolyn Quinn-Hoskins. “And that’s due to the pay raises, the money.”

“I particularly have seen that in the math and science areas, which is a shortage area for the state,” Dr. Labat says. “They generally can find other jobs that pay higher wages.”

The hope is that Mississippi House Bill 530 can change that.

“This is a historical day for all educators in Mississippi, Quinn-Hoskins says. “We have waited so long to receive our pay raise.”

The START Act would provide pay raises of $4,000 to $6,000 for all Mississippi teachers and a $2,000 raise for assistant teachers.

The Senate has its own plan that includes an average increase of $4,700 over two years. A vote on that bill has not been scheduled at this time.

“This is the time for us to stand up and say, ‘We appreciate you, we value you, and we want to show you that this profession is important,'” Dr. Labat says. “The future of Mississippi is important, and you deserve this raise.”

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