Date of Award

Summer 8-1-2018

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Committee Chair

Dr. Rebecca Tuuri

Committee Chair Department

History

Committee Member 2

Dr. Chester M. Morgan

Committee Member 2 Department

History

Committee Member 3

Dr. Teresa S. Welsh

Committee Member 3 Department

Library and Information Science

Abstract

This thesis argues that the Education Reform Act of 1982 (ERA) inadvertently led to Mississippi’s first statewide teachers’ strike in 1985 because of the Southeastern pay average clause recommending that the teachers’ pay should reach the average of the southeastern states, if possible. The teachers’ associations in Mississippi used this clause to lobby and promote teachers’ pay to that average. However, after two years of stagnated pay raises, the teachers’ associations led a state statewide teachers’ strike. The strike successfully raised the teachers’ salaries and moved state legislators to consider the teachers’ pay issue carefully afterwards. However, the pay raise cost the teachers their leverage to strike. The pay package in 1985 contained an anti-strike clause that automatically fired striking teachers. While many historians have chronicled the passage of the ERA, little research narrates the effects of the ERA.

This strike illustrates the conflict between conservativism and progressivism in Mississippi. Legislators hesitated to raise taxes again for the teachers’ raises because of the cost of the ERA and the state’s poor economy. However, Governor William F. Winter, who promoted and passed the ERA, set the precedent to promote education reform through public campaigning. The teachers’ associations did the same. They mobilized the teachers after the ERA’s passage. After the legislators and Governor William “Bill” Allain neglected the Southeastern average goal, the associations used the organization of teachers to strike. After the strike, state politicians and the next governor, Ray Mabus, successfully negotiated another pay raise without raising taxes.

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