(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) State educators have made raising teacher salaries a top priority in 2020, and are looking to lawmakers to do the same.
Last week, the Missouri State Board of Education voted unanimously to approve a plan that would increase educator's pay by up to $4,000. The National Education Association (NEA) ranked the Show Me State 49th in minimum starting salary for teachers, and dead last in the region.
Erin Burnham, St. Joseph representative for the Missouri State Teachers Association, said the low pay in the state is making it tough to keep teachers in the school districts.
"We don't expect our kids to be 48th or 49th out of 50, we expect our kids to be in the top 10 percent or even in the top half, so I think that speaks volumes to why we are unable to recruit and retain teachers," Burnham said.
Missouri was also ranked by the NEA at 43 in the nation with an overall average teacher salary (for the 2017-2018 school year) of $49,304. The national average for the same year was $60,477. Here's how Missouri compares to some bordering states:
- Iowa: $57,018 - 21
- Kansas: $49,754 - 41
- Nebraska: $54,213 - 25
- Illinois: $65,721 - 11
With several bordering states offering teachers thousands of dollars more, Burnham said it's no wonder graduating students from local schools aren't staying in the area.
"It's easy, especially in the St. Joe area, to drive across to go to Kansas or to go on the Illinois side to go across, and receive $10,000 to $12,000 more," Burnham said.
The Teachers Salary Proposal was broken down into three parts, the first of which looks to increase pay for all teachers. This part of the proposal looks at three options: raising pay by $2,000, $3,000, or $4,000 - with the latter being the Board's preferred choice.
The second part of the proposal would increase Missouri's minimum starting salary to $32,000. Currently, that number sits at $25,000. Burnham said this could also help keep education graduates from Missouri in local school districts.
"They go north to Iowa or they go across the border, so if we have that base salary when they come out we're immediately a draw for 'hey, stay in the state of Missouri because our base is $32,000, you can live here,'" Burnham said.
The final part of the proposal would aim to set aside a state fund for the school districts to top into to recruit hard-to-hire positions.
"We need teachers, special education teachers; the high-needs areas and critical shortage areas like math and science, those places," Burnham said.
The Missouri Board of Education voted to lobby state lawmakers in both the House and the Senate to put together a joint interim committee in 2020 to investigate the teacher salary issue further. However, the biggest obstacle for the proposal could be the price tag. It could cost up to $4 million to pay for the raises.
"I feel confident that [lawmakers] will find a way to fund it since it has been a priority," Burnham said.
She added that teacher salary was a big priority for Governor Mike Parson, and feels confident state lawmakers will take the proposal seriously.
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