What now? MO education leaders working to increase teacher salaries after report ” Missouri


A Blue Ribbon Commission asked Missouri to raise the minimum starting salary to $38,000. It is currently number 50 in the nation.

A month has passed since Missouri’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Teacher Recruitment and Retention called for higher salaries and other changes to increase the number of qualified public school teachers and improve students’ academic outcomes.

In a series of fact-finding meetings that followed, including a Wednesday in Nixa, Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven said she had been asked the same question repeatedly.

“We have these recommendations, so the question is, ‘Now what?'” Vandeven told the nearly 100 audience, including many area leaders and school board members, at Nixa Junior High.

“What you keep hearing us say, every person that comes forward, is it’s going to take us all. Change cannot happen without collective action.”

The commission made immediate, short-term and long-term recommendations, which were unanimously supported by the state school board. A total of five teachers addressed pay in one form or another. They include:

  • Increase teachers’ starting salaries to at least $38,000;
  • prioritizing annual funding for the Career Ladder program, which rewards teachers for taking on additional work;
  • Established a fund to help districts improve teacher salaries;
  • providing salary subsidies to fill high demand positions;
  • Providing salary supplements for teachers with National Board Certification.

The four other recommendations include:

  • Establishing sustainable funding for Grow Your Own programs;
  • Encouraging districts to implement team-based teaching models;
  • Increasing support for teachers’ mental health;
  • offer teaching assistance.

“Why this is important for everyone”

In mid-December, the state board will deal with goals for the coming legislative period. Almost all of the changes sought by the Commission will require additional government funding or revisions to state laws.

More:MO Commission unveils plan to tackle urgent teacher shortages and says salaries must rise

For example, the legal minimum salary for a teacher is only $25,000, lower than neighboring states and the rest of the United States

To get districts to voluntarily raise the minimum to $38,000, the state offered to pay 70% of the cost to close the gap between teachers’ earnings and this benchmark. The remaining 30% had yet to be raised by the districts, and there was no guarantee that the funds would be available next year.

Vandeven said lasting change requires broad support from taxpayers, local decision-makers and business owners.

“Our job here is to think about how we’re reaching out to our leaders and our parishioners – we had people talking last night about going to their church groups and doing whatever we can to underscore the importance of this call and why that is important for everyone,” she said.

She said more work was needed to support existing teachers in Missouri public schools.

“We need to tell our story better, teacher. Our teachers are really telling us that it’s difficult right now. We need to support our teachers as much as we can at all levels of the system,” she said.

“If they tell us they need support, let’s get really specific – what do we need and how can we help?”

Recruiting teachers requires public relations work in high schools and colleges, Vandeven said. She said educators should talk about “what a beautiful, life-changing profession this really is.”

“If you know someone who wants to be a teacher, we encourage them,” Vandeven said. “I’m going to share that last week I had dinner with a student, a high school senior, who said, ‘I wanted to be a teacher, but I’ve changed my mind.’ I said, “Why did you change your mind?” and (the student said) ‘Well, people talked me out of it.'”

Teachers and staff ‘have waited long enough’

Bolivar Superintendent Richard Asbill, one of many school leaders at the Nixa meeting, said the commission helped amplify high-priority problems facing the teaching workforce, including attrition and low pay.

“I really appreciate the Commission’s efforts now to speed up the process,” he said.

To achieve the commission’s goals, Asbill said schools need to work with parents and local leaders.

“In Missouri, many of the priorities that we talk about depend on lawmakers to help us make these changes,” Asbill said, noting that there are limits to what districts can do on their own. “It will take the state legislature to endorse funding levels and changes to the state minimum base before we will see the change really taking effect.”

Asbill added, “Our Missouri state teachers and support staff have waited long enough for this, and we really need every region in the state to push for this change. We need lawmakers to understand that we cannot delay this.”

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Asbill said schools’ ability to find qualified teachers to fill vacancies will not improve without help. He said paying and increasing the value of public education is critical to long-term success.

“In Missouri, public education in these areas is poor, and now we have a recipe for how to deal with that,” he said. “If we say we only want to cover half of it, we really don’t get any better.”

Next steps after commission report

In a series of regional meetings, state education officials presented the commission’s report and explained why improving the situation is crucial for teachers and the students they serve.

“Low retention rates result in high demand for new teachers each year. A lower supply of new teachers each year makes it difficult to fill vacancies, so the focus is on teacher recruitment and retention,” said Paul Katnik, deputy commissioner at the State Department of Primary and Secondary Education.

The state shared the following statistics:

  • Missouri’s median starting salary of $33,234 was ranked 50th in the nation in 2021-22.
  • In 2019-20, only 10,034 students enrolled in Missouri teacher preparation programs, down from 14,134 a decade earlier.
  • Currently, 53% of all teachers leave the profession within five years. In 2020-21, only 55.6% of teachers remained after three years, compared to 61.4% in 2015-16.
  • There is a chronic shortage of fully certified teachers in more subjects. The biggest gap is special education. Other areas include elementary school, preschool, and science and math.
  • On average, teachers in Missouri earn 28% less than people with a similar background and educational level.

“In places where there are bottlenecks, particularly in certain content areas and geographic parts of the state, we now have Missouri students learning from teachers who are not appropriately certified to teach what they teach or we have Missouri students learning from substitute teachers,” Katnik said. “In some cases we have Missouri students who can’t even take the course they want because no teacher was available.”

Commission Chairman Mark Walker and Kurt Hellweg, both from Springfield, attended the Nixa meeting along with board members Peter Herschend and Mary Schrag.

“My request of you tonight is to lend your voice to these recommendations as you watch them move through the process in Missouri over the coming months, recruit others, let others know how you feel,” said Walker, CEO of the Transport company Transland.

Walker said pay isn’t the only challenge facing faculty, and schools and communities need to address “cultural and climate issues.” The Commission will continue its work for part of 2023.

“Those will definitely be our next phases, but we want to start with the area where we felt we could make really important progress,” he said.

Speaking to education officials in Nixa, Walker said he hoped more business leaders would get involved. “As business people, we are recipients of the product that you create, and it’s really important that we have the most talented workforce that we can have in Missouri to remain competitive.”

Claudette Riley reports on education for the news leader. Email tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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