Mississippi teachers unhappy with meager pay raise
(Miss.) Labor unrest appears set to disrupt classroom time in the state of Mississippi, where teacher pay is among the lowest in the nation.
Last week, the Mississippi Association of Educators posted a survey asking members if they’d support a one-day, statewide “sickout” or a more aggressive action.
The move comes as a bill that would increase teacher salary in Mississippi awaits the governor’s signature. The legislation, however, would only add a $1,000 increase over two years—well short of the $4,000 over the same period that teachers had lobbied for.
Although state law restricts teachers from walking out on strike, a growing number of union members are voicing their frustration on social media and elsewhere, hoping to put pressure on lawmakers to do more.
“We aren’t shocked that a conversation about protests is taking place,” Mississippi Association of Educators President Joyce Helmick said in a statement. “When you’ve approached this process in earnest year-in, year-out and been ignored or given a symbolic gesture simply intended to pacify you, what else is there to do?”
The last time that teachers in Mississippi staged a statewide walkout was more than 30 years ago and since then, lawmakers have made it difficult for another action to be organized.
Educators that walk off the job can have their license suspended or revoked. Districts are also required to report the names of striking teachers to the state attorney general.
The mood among some educators, however, is stark enough that those measures may not matter.
Last week a newly established Facebook page, Pay Raise for Mississippi Teachers, quickly attracted more than 40,000 followers.
One anonymous post quoted by the Clarion Ledger suggested labor action was imminent.
“It is clear the teachers are ready to do SOMETHING, but there is not clear consensus on what that will be,” the post states. “We have to find something the largest number of us will participate in so we can have the greatest impact.”
The average pay for teachers in Mississippi is $44,659, and lags the regional average of $51,000 for southeastern states.
Helmick said the union remains actively lobbying on the behalf of teachers.
“We promised educators that, despite the frustrating end to the legislative session, we weren't done advocating for them and we weren't done advocating for Mississippi's students,” she said. “Educators and the citizens of Mississippi are mad and they are calling for action.”