April 17, 2019 10:25:50 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill Tuesday to give teachers and assistant teachers a $1,500 pay raise during the year that begins July 1.
Bryant's Twitter account posted a photo of him signing Senate Bill 2770 nearly three weeks after legislators agreed on the plan.
"Good teachers can change the trajectory of a student's life forever," the governor's account tweeted.
The Mississippi Department of Education says that before the raises, teachers in the state received an average of $44,659, which is less than the Southeastern average of about $51,000.
The minimum salary for assistant teachers has long been frozen at $12,500. That will increase to $14,000.
The Mississippi Department of Education says there are 31,000 classroom teachers and 3,500 assistants statewide.
Joshua Whiteside, 21, will graduate from Alcorn State University next month. He said he is looking for a job as a physical education teacher in either northern Mississippi or in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. He said he believes he could earn a higher salary in Tennessee.
"Mississippi teachers get paid too little," Whiteside told The Associated Press as he attended a recent educators' conference.
Joyce Helmick, president of the 7,000-member Mississippi Association of Educators, said this month that she has heard from teachers who are angry that the pay raise was not higher than $1,500.
Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who is campaigning to try to succeed the term-limited Bryant, has pointed to the teacher pay raise as a top accomplishment of the legislative session that ran from early January until late March.
However, both of the candidates facing Reeves in the Republican gubernatorial primary in August, former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep. Robert Foster, have criticized the pay raise as too meager.
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