Missouri’s teacher shortage is complicated, and a statewide commission is finalizing a variety of recommendations designed to put more teachers ahead of the next-generation workforce.
The commission has been working on the plan for a few months. The recommendations will be forwarded to the Missouri Board of Education to ask state lawmakers to return to next year’s legislative session.
Some members of the commission have been very clear that the shortage will not be solved by increasing teachers’ salaries and calling it a day, but they said at Monday’s meeting that the salary increase was an important way to get things done. They say some of the other challenges, such as school climate and respect for the profession, will require a deeper dive.
Missouri’s average teacher salary of nearly $33,000 is the 50th in the nation.
Commission Chairman Mark Walker of Springfield said one of the key recommendations was to raise teachers’ starting salaries to at least $38,000 a year.
“For school districts that don’t have the funds to raise their teachers’ salaries, they can apply for funding to support that. Our proposal would ask the legislature to fund this component to the extent it was needed for these school districts,” he said.
Walker said another key recommendation is to prioritize annual state funding for the Career Ladder program, which aims to increase the salaries of experienced teachers.
State Representative Ingrid Burnett, D-Kansas City, said funding for the program should be an easy lift.
“Teacher participation is optional. They can participate one year and not the next year,” Burnett said. “But I’ll tell you, for me and my family, it’s been a tremendous help. This allowed me to pay for my child’s braces. I couldn’t have done this without the Career Ladder program. The teacher can participate or not, and knowing full well that if he does not participate, he does not get any additional income.
Lucy Berrier Matheson of the Hunt Institute, an independent public education policy nonprofit, said teacher pay has an impact on student achievement.
“Research shows that after adjustment to the local labor market, increasing teacher salaries by 10% subsequently reduces high school dropout rates by 3% to 4%,” she said.
Commission member Mary Schrag of West Plains said well-educated students would put Missouri in a better financial position.
“In West Plains, I’ll use an example where we have DRS (Technologies) and it’s a manufacturing company. A lot of their employees are actually in technical training, but they’re all going K-12,” she said. “They produce things like Patriot missile carriers. It’s really crucial that we have literate people, even if they don’t have advanced education, to be able to provide these kinds of services to our country, isn’t it. As a health care provider, I know I wouldn’t be a health care provider without a good education. »
Assistant Commissioner Paul Katnik said about 20 to 25 percent of Missouri teachers have second jobs to make ends meet.
“Obviously, teachers enter the education profession with the intention of being professionals and the fact that they have to supplement those salaries, I think, speaks to the serious underinvestment in salaries,” said said Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City. .
State Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven said the state needs to raise teachers’ salaries.
“I was at a school last week, where North Tech was launching their registered youth apprenticeship program for students, high school students who told me they were paid $17 an hour. So, if we pay our students more for their young registered apprentices than we are able to pay our teachers, we have to be able to do that I think $38,000 is very manageable It’s like we don’t have the choice,” Vandeven said.
Maxine Clark, a board member and founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop in St. Louis, said she favors higher wages, but the panel should be cautious.
“When you raise teachers’ salaries, especially in some of these rural communities where they don’t have insurance and don’t have other benefits, something is going to have to happen because now they’ll be eligible for Medicaid before the salary increase. But we have to think that in those particular school districts, they’re going to fall off the scale for any of those benefits that they’re getting that’s supporting them right now,” Clark said.
Commission member Bob Wollenman, a St. Joseph business owner, said he thinks the panel missed the mark on the wage rate and beyond.
“We are in a desperate situation. I think our goal is to stay in the upper low-wage bracket. I believe that we, as a group, should be waving a banner saying, “We want to be in the top 10% in the United States,” and we’re not going to get there by doing what we’re doing. Who will our teaching staff be in the next three to five years, if we don’t make a major adjustment? “Giving back the taxpayer dollars that the governor is advocating right now, those dollars could go so far in our corrections.”
State Senator Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, is chair of the Senate Education Committee and serves on the committee. She thinks classroom culture is more of a deterrent to teachers staying in the profession than their salary. She said discipline should be brought back into the classroom.
“I think there is no doubt that teachers should be paid more. On the other side of the equation, however, there are lawmakers who feel we have problems in the classrooms. We have children attacking their teachers. We have, in some classrooms, total dysfunction. I think part of that has happened with the integration of students maybe into the classrooms who really aren’t able to be in class all day,” she said. “In my opinion, it may not be producing the kind of results we want. I think if we don’t address these things, it doesn’t matter what we pay teachers and I think lawmakers are also going to stiffen up against that until we address these things. Some people think I’m not a strong supporter of public education like I should be. I am a supporter of public education. I come from a rural area, our public schools are a mainstay of our communities, but our classrooms have almost turned into a war room in some situations. We can’t have kids throwing things that their teachers kick and bite. Why would a person want to stay in that kind of environment? We really need to fix this problem. And I think once we do that, lawmakers will say, “Okay, we’re all headed in the same direction.” I think they’re willing to help fix it, but they don’t feel like they’re being heard either. Then you get into a sort of dead end.
Vandeven weighed in on comments about the school environment.
“If you put people in classrooms that aren’t trained effectively to deal with the culture and the climate, it just gets worse and continues and they leave and you have this constant turnover,” he said. she stated.
Another element of the plan includes providing more comprehensive scholarships to students at Missouri teachers’ colleges. There would be scholarship requirements, such as working in an eligible district every two years of the annual scholarship.
State Representative Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia, who sits on the commission, made suggestions. He is a former teacher and school principal.
“I think our teachers could complete their university studies in three years, with this fourth year being a year of co-teaching. It’s a paid co-teaching year because they pay for college while they co-teach and work, and we put our teachers there in four years instead of the five years that the most universities need now. When we say teachers leave in the three-to-five zone, a lot of people want to start a family. We are having a hard time finding daycare. There are a small number of school districts we would have done that – we would have put a daycare center in our early years center where our young teachers who have a child could know for at least 0-2 that they would have a safe place for their child to go so that he can return to class. These are all things that have nothing to do with salary, but they have a lot to do with mental health and have a lot to do with the excitement of getting into education and staying in education if you get those necessary supports,” Pollitt said.
Members also want the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to partner with the Missouri School Boards Association to help districts provide resources to address the mental health needs of school workers.
Another major part of the plan would create sustainable funding for Grow Your Own programs across the state. These programs aim to increase the local pool of future teachers in a district by recruiting people from their school environment, such as students, paraprofessionals and other adults. The commission wants to provide $10,000 grants to all districts to create or expand a Grow Your Own program.
Of Missouri’s approximately 518 traditional public school districts, 470 have Grow Your Own programs.
The commission plans to present its final recommendations to the Missouri Board of Education in October.
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