The Mississippi House of Representatives approved House Bill 530, Jan. 12, which would increase Mississippi teachers’ salaries by $4,000-$6,000.
The House plan would raise a starting teacher’s salary to $43,000, which is higher than neighboring states of Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama.
The measure passed the House in a 114-6 vote. Of the six representatives who voted against HB530, three represent DeSoto County: Rep. Dana Criswell of District 6, Rep. Steve Hopkins of District 7 and Rep. Dan Eubanks of District 25.
“It is unfathomable that three DeSoto County House Representatives voted ‘no’ to this bill,” Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite wrote on Facebook. “They clearly do not understand the major difference between spending and investing. It’s fair to ask them ‘why’.”
According to the DeSoto County Economic Development Council, DeSoto County Schools is the largest employer in the county with 3,872 employees, more than twice the size of the second largest.
Additionally, the Mississippi Department of Education reported that DeSoto County School District employs more teachers than any other district in the state. Data from the 2020-’21 school year puts DeSoto County School District at the top with 2,180 total classroom teachers.
The three DeSoto County representatives in opposition to HB530 each released a statement explaining their decisions.
Hopkins, who has several teachers in his family, wrote that increasing teachers’ salaries has been one of his main objectives since he took office, but eliminating Mississippi’s income tax is more important to him.
“This year we find ourselves in the best situation in our State’s history to be able to eliminate the state incoming tax without raising the sales tax, be able to cut the cost of car tags in half and cut the grocery tax in half,” Hopkins said. “That cannot be accomplished and commit to the biggest teacher pay raise in our State’s history.”
Eubanks and Criswell shared similar reasons.
“What Mississippi needs more than anything is comprehensive income tax reform and the elimination of the state income,” Eubanks said. “This enormous obligation voted on today will put that and the future elimination triggers that will completely eliminate our income tax at serious risk.”
Hopkins and Eubanks both voted in favor of HB852 in 2021, a similar bill that raised teachers’ salaries. Criswell voted against it.
“Competitive pay for our teachers and education, in general, must be at the top of our priorities for Mississippi to succeed both now and in our future,” Musselwhite said.