Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Missouri lawmakers want to raise teacher pay but anticipate Senate resistance

By Annelise Hanshaw

Legislation boosting teacher recruitment and retention in Missouri is once again a priority of the Missouri House, with a hearing Wednesday morning on a pair of Republican-backed bills.

Rep. Ed Lewis, a Republican from Moberly, is sponsoring legislation based on the findings of the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s blue ribbon commission. It is the third year he has sponsored legislation on teacher recruitment and retention.

“The problem is obvious to all of us at this point,” he told the committee. “We don’t have enough teachers for our public schools and, to some extent, for the private and parochial schools as well.”

After three years in a Missouri school district, an average 43.3% of teachers leave, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

According to the Missouri National Education Association, a teachers’ union, the state ranks 50th in average starting teacher pay and 47th in average teacher pay.

Lewis’s bill seeks to raise the base teacher pay, allow differentiated salary schedules for hard-to-staff areas and increase scholarships to recruit teachers, among other provisions.

Rep. Ann Kelley, a Republican from Lamar, asked whether support staff could be added to the bill.

“The schools cannot be successful without the support staff, and the salaries of the support staff and retention and retaining those support staff is vital,” Kelley said.

Lewis was hesitant to increase the potential fiscal impact.

“We’re gonna have a hard time getting anything across the finish line on the other side,” he said, referring to the Senate.

Last year, he filed the teacher pay-raise proposals as separate bills before the committee combined them into one bill. The House overwhelmingly approved the legislation on a 145-5 vote, but filibusters in the Senate ran out the clock before it could be debated in that chamber.

Rep. Willard Haley, a Republican from Eldon, is also sponsoring a bill to raise teachers’ minimum salary — though his ask is a bit different. He hopes to raise the base to $46,000 by the 2027-28 school year. Fully implemented, the bill is estimated to cost up to $17.5 million.

“I just insist that it’s time that we start paying our teachers what they deserve,” Haley said.

He said teenagers with a high-school diploma can make more working at a local factory than some teachers do.

Currently, state statute allows schools to pay teachers as little as $25,000 or $33,000 for those with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience.

The state has a grant program, which is up for renewal annually, to raise teacher base salaries to $38,000. In the current school year, 310 school districts are using the grant for a total of 4,806 teachers, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education told The Independent.

Gov. Mike Parson has requested an increase to this program to raise the base to $40,000 for the next fiscal year.

Lewis doesn’t like relying on the annual appropriations for teacher salaries. He said he worries, with an upcoming gubernatorial election, the next governor may not fully fund the base-salary grant.

“I don’t think we should legislate through the budget. I think that the policy should go first and the budget should follow,” he told the committee.

Haley’s bill prescribes a fund that would match district’s contributions 70/30 to get salaries to his preferred base.

Rep. Kathy Steinhoff, a Columbia Democrat, said she wanted a “broader” change.

“I look at our large school districts… 52% of our districts will see no impact from state dollars towards teacher salaries,” she said. “I feel pretty confident if we ask those districts ‘Are you having a retention problem?’ They would probably all say yes.”

Rep. Dan Stacy, a Republican from Blue Springs, asked if a base-pay increase could be tied to a decrease to another part of the budget. Haley said his bill is “top priority.”

“This is such a priority item that we must handle this,” he said. “We must fulfill this funding even at a cost to some other things. But education is that important to me.”

No one testified in opposition to the legislation Wednesday.


Anonymous said...

Let's Take all the Promises that the Lobbyist and Politicians said - when th0y allowed - Gambling and Lottery into the State of Missouri - With the Promise that our Schools would have Halls made out of Gold - and Truly use all the Lottery Money for Schools - Teachers, Etc., instead of putting it into the General Fund - - For any Pet Project these Politicians have - and Direct all of it to the Schools.

Also, In Missouri we have the Lowest Cigarette Tax in the Country - $0.17 on 20 Pack - While other States have Cigarette Taxes as High as $2.00 to $5.00 - WHY....

All the Surrounding States People - Come to Buy Cigarettes in Missouri because we have such Low Taxes on Them...

Because these Lobbyist have the Politicians in the Back Pockets - -

Don't Raise the Private Individuals Taxes / Property Taxes - Just Up the Cigarette Tax and use some of that Money for the Schools - - So Simple but - so many People have to get Paid Off - for this Simple Solution.

Anonymous said...

Pay for performance…