VERONA, Miss. (WTVA) -- It's a new school year for Mississippi teachers, and for the first time in almost a decade, teachers begin the school year with a higher base salary than the previous year. Mississippi teachers received a $1,500 raise.
"It's not exactly what we asked for," said Mississippi Association of Educators President Joyce Helmick. "But we are pleased, and we feel like this is the first step toward getting what we need for our teachers in our state."
Mississippi has the second lowest pay scale for teachers in the country, according to the National Education Association.
"We need to pay them equal to or better than our rivaling states," added Helmick. "Right now, teachers start out in other places $5,000 more than in Mississippi."
She made her comments about teacher pay while at Verona Elementary School Monday promoting the MAE's new literacy program.
Principal Temeka Shannon agrees with Helmick's assessment about teacher pay and says she is pleased with the help received by the MAE.
"It's important as educators that we know there is someone outside of the school that's working on our behalf," said Shannon.
While MAE has helped out its educators, its main focus is still the kids. Helmick was at Verona Elementary reading to kids and says the organization's literacy program will support teachers in their work. The program will also help prepare students for the first use of the state reading test called Gateway.
"Mississippi has this reading initiative, and we are working very hard to be a part of that initiative," said Helmick. "This test is very important. According to law, if they do not pass this reading test in the third grade, they do not move on."