Photo: From left, Gov. Tate Reeves, Olive Branch Mayor Ken Adams, and aldermen Dale Dickerson and Gil Earhart at the groundbreaking of The Cascades development in Olive Branch. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves this week released a task force report calling for Mississippi leaders to take action to address the state’s teacher shortages and bolster the state’s workforce and economic future.
The 50-page report from the Mississippi Governor’s Human Capital Task Force details how Mississippi leaders — from the governor’s office to the legislature, state education board, colleges and K-12 school systems — should collaborate to reform and improve teacher compensation, expand the pipeline into the profession, strengthen preparation and support for new and experienced teachers, and more.
In Olive Branch this week, Reeves said he wants to give teachers more of a pay increase as an investment in the state’s improving education.
“There’s a lot of things the report identified as challenges that we need to work towards fixing,” Reeves said. “I made a proposal months ago that we increase teacher pay in our state by $4,300 a year. We saw an increase in teacher pay last year and it passed the Mississippi Legislature and I commend them for that. I’ve identified a plan to increase that by another $3,300 over the next couple of years.”
Reeves added he is hopeful the Legislature will approve his plan once it reconvenes in January.
“We think it is important,” the governor said. “We look at teacher pay as a percent of the cost of living here in our state. If we are able to pass my plan, then we can get in the top 21 states in terms of teacher pay relative to what it costs to live in any particular jurisdiction.”
Convened at the governor’s request by the nonpartisan Southern Regional Education Board, the task force includes teachers, local school superintendents, education professors and deans, a university president, state Board of Education members, State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright and other Mississippi Department of Education representatives, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the Mississippi Community College Foundation and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
Among the task force’s key recommendations from the report:
- Improve pathways and preparation for teachers
- Create more formal teacher residencies to provide future educators with real classroom experience and ensure all pathways into the profession are held to the same high standards.
- Provide college-tuition breaks or loan forgiveness for future teachers.
- Develop marketing campaigns to attract students into teaching — showing how they can enter the field and why the profession matters.
- Build a new system to evaluate and show teacher-preparation program quality in the state’s colleges and universities.
- Ensure that future teachers gain more experience in real classrooms, incorporate the latest technology, and nurture students’ social and emotional health.
- Convene all two- and four-year colleges to agree on transferable education courses and establish a path for future teachers that starts in community colleges.
- Launch an introductory education course for dual enrollment high school students that all Mississippi two- and four-year colleges recognize.
- Strengthen support for teachers throughout their careers
- Integrate support programs for new and experienced teachers and high-quality professional development into the licensing system.
- Build a new teacher license structure that allows advancement, expands leadership opportunities, and offers the potential for higher salaries.
- Raise teacher compensation to professional levels
- Increase salaries and benefits to attract the highest-caliber candidates.
- Develop a new minimum statewide salary structure — with regular cost-of-living raises and incentive pay for teacher-leaders in low socioeconomic school districts.
The task force also urged Mississippi to begin work on a statewide longitudinal data system to monitor student progress from early childhood into the workforce, while ensuring students’ privacy.
Teacher shortages and the impact on the broader workforce
The state reports shortages of well qualified teachers at all grade levels for the 2021-22 school year, specifically in mathematics, science, special education and world languages.
Nearly one in five teachers in the U.S.—and up to 45 percent of teachers in the South—leave the field before completing their fifth year in the classroom, according to the task force report. Teachers cite poor working conditions, lack of support, overwhelming stress, and inadequate pay and benefits as main factors in leaving the profession.
Elevating the teaching profession and adding more well-qualified teachers also will help the state meet its overall education and workforce goals, the task force found.
“It is crucial that the teacher shortage crisis is mitigated to give the next generation of the Mississippi workforce a fighting chance,” the report says.
A copy of the report can be found here.