Mississippi–yes, Mississippi–just raised the bar for teacher pay in the southeast. North Carolina’s General Assembly needs to pay close attention.

This week Mississippi legislators passed a law raising educators’ salaries by an average of more than $5000 per year. It’s the largest educator pay raise in state history.

Mississippi’s compensation for educators has traditionally been one of the lowest in the country. Starting teachers will now earn $41,638–above the national average.

The $246 million bill passed Mississippi’s Senate unanimously and cleared the House by a vote of 118-4. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans, and the state’s GOP governor has indicated he will sign it.

This dramatic salary increase goes into effect for the 2022-23 school year. It comes as Mississippi faces more than 3000 teacher vacancies statewide.

North Carolina legislators need to pay very close attention. Our state’s schools are also experiencing massive staffing shortages after a two year pandemic. A state budget passed last fall gives North Carolina educators raises of just 1.3% over each of the next two years–not even close to keeping pace with inflation.

It’s now likely we will see a repeat of the targeted efforts to lure North Carolina educators away that occurred a few years ago when Texas recruiters took out classified ads promising massive raises to teachers willing to relocate.

The teacher exodus North Carolina has seen this year will only increase if lawmakers don’t take significant action to stop it. And while an abrupt change in state legislators’ priorities seems improbable, Mississippi has just proved it’s possible.

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