Shannon Moore is a biology and chemistry teacher at Pelahatchie High School. Moore tells us she got the calling at an early age.
"Most highly effective teachers don't teach for the money. And, I've never taught for the money," explains Moore.
She says a higher salary would be nice, especially since she spends about 300-dollars each year out of her own pocket for supplies.
When asked if she thought teachers are underpaid for the amount of work they do, Moore replied, "Yes. The number of hours we work, the amount of dedication we give, not just in the classroom, but outside the classroom. I don't think we get rewarded for that enough."
The average salary of a kindergarten through twelfth grade teacher in the state is nearly 42-thousand dollars a year. But, they're not the lowest paid state employees. Police officers and firefighters rank near the bottom, ranging from 24- to 25-thousand dollars annually.
Most mayors in Mississippi take home an average of 26-thousand dollars. Compare that to the Mayor of Jackson, who rakes in 120-thousand dollars. Governor Phil Bryant makes a little more than that. His paycheck is around 122-thousand dollars a year.
"The governor seems to have a pretty important job," comments Jackson resident Carlton Harris.
We went through hundreds of pages of state documents revealing the salaries of thousands of state employees. And, we found college football coaches rank at the top.
Take the University of Mississippi's Hugh Freeze, for example. He makes a whopping 1.5-million dollars. But, the state only pays 250-thousand dollars of his annual salary. The rest comes from boosters and the University President's Foundation. The Associate Head Football coach at Ole Miss makes 550-thousand dollars. That's more than what Chancellor Daniel Jones makes. His salary is 429-thousand dollars.
"I would be dishonest if I didn't say it was troubling of what's happening across the country now with head coaches' salaries," adds the Commissioner of Higher Education.
Hank Bounds makes more than 341-thousand dollars a year. Eight university presidents in the state report to him. Bounds says he believes it would be an enormous mistake for lawmakers to pass legislation limiting coaches' salaries.
"The pros are that they bring in 50-thousand people on a Saturday afternoon. And, those folks are more likely to give money to athletics," continues Bounds.
But, he fully supports giving teachers, like Moore, a boost in pay, which is something they haven't received in six years.
"I think if the state of Mississippi wants their education system to improve. One way to do that is offering a better salary," suggest Moore.
The Mississippi legislature is funding a new 1.5-million dollar performance-based pilot program to help give teachers bonus money for all of their hard work. Rankin County is one of the four school districts statewide participating.
*Our information came from a Freedom of Information Act request with the Mississippi State Personnel Board and the Institutions of Higher Learning. We also used Mississippi State University's Stennis Institute Report (click here).
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