Education

Do you know how much money your child’s teachers make?

Jessica Whittington jokes with her students as they prepare to change classes at Singing River Elementary. The Pascagoula-Gautier School District had the highest average teacher salary — $48,926 — of any district in the state in 2014-15.
Jessica Whittington jokes with her students as they prepare to change classes at Singing River Elementary. The Pascagoula-Gautier School District had the highest average teacher salary — $48,926 — of any district in the state in 2014-15. ttisbell@sunherald.com

For teachers, the well-known phrase “I don’t do it for the pay” comes with the territory.

But if you’re a teacher in South Mississippi, chances are you bring home more pay than other teachers in the state. And at one school district, the average salary is higher than any other in Mississippi.

Teacher pay in South Mississippi surpasses the state average of $43,308 for the 2014-15 school year in nearly every district, according to figures compiled by the Mississippi Department of Education.

The Pascagoula-Gautier School District had the highest average teacher salary — $48,926 — of any district in the state. Biloxi School District had the second-highest average at $48,090, followed by Gulfport School District with $47,112.

We want to make sure we make the school district as attractive as possible to our teachers, to keep them here. That’s why we place high importance on teacher pay.

Wayne Rodolfich, superintendent of Pascagoula-Gautier School District

Pearl River, George and Stone county school districts were below the state average with average salaries of $42,351, $41,869 and $43,122 respectively.

Often cited as the top-performing school districts in the state, Pass Christian, Long Beach and Ocean Springs had salary averages of $46,802, $45,445 and $45,760 respectively. They were toward the middle of the pack of all fourteen South Mississippi school districts examined.

The average salary in the Moss Point School District meanwhile was $45,237.

Pascagoula-Gautier School District Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich said local industry can help schools with salaries. Both his district and Biloxi’s get additional revenue from the casino and shipping industries.

“We’ve very fortunate to have industry here that helps us do that,” Rodolfich said.

“Our teachers have some unique challenges. In our district, we have many students who aren’t English-proficient. We have a large special education program and after-school tutoring. We want to make sure we make the school district is as attractive as possible to our teachers, to keep them here. That’s why we place high importance on teacher pay,” he said.

Based on average daily attendance from the same MDE data, the average class size in Mississippi was 14 students to every teacher. Pascagoula-Gautier had the smallest class size in South Mississippi with about 12 students for every teacher. Pearl River County School District had the highest average at 16 to 1.

Outside comparison

In comparison to the rest of the country, including neighboring states, average teacher salary in Mississippi remains near the bottom.

Teachers in the Magnolia State make less on average than every state in the country besides South Dakota. Going back ten years, Mississippi and South Dakota trade places for second lowest salary in the country, according to numbers compiled by the National Center of Education Statistics.

For the 2014-15 school year, Alabama’s average teacher salary was $49,497. The average was $47,886 in Louisiana, $48,017 in Arkansas and $53,382 in Georgia. Mississippi had the lowest average in the South at $43,308, according to the National Education Association.

The average beginning salary for Mississippi teachers was $31,187 in 2014-15, according to the Association. It was $36,201 in Alabama, $38,655 in Louisiana and $32,478 in Arkansas and $33,424 in Georgia.

The Mississippi Adequate Education Program sets a salary schedule for school districts to abide by. According to the 2014-15 schedule, starting pay for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $33,390. That base pay grew to $34,490 after legislators passed a $1,000 raise for teachers. The pay goes up with advanced degrees such as a master’s degree or doctorate and/or with duration of career.

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory

School District

Student average per class

Average teacher salary

Bay-Waveland School District

14.58

$44,790

Biloxi School District

14.63

$48,090

George County School District

14.10

$41,869

Gulfport School District

15.57

$47,112

Hancock County School District

14.89

$45,198

Harrison County School District

15.67

$45,979

Jackson County School District

15.57

$46,267

Long Beach School District

15.75

$45,445

Moss Point School District

14.52

$45,237

Ocean Springs School District

15.13

$45,760

Pascagoula School District

11.71

$48,926

Pass Christian School District

14.74

$46,802

Pearl River County School District

15.97

$42,351

Stone County School District

13.80

$43,122

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