JEFFERSON CITY, MO. – Teachers earning less than $38,000 a year in Missouri could receive a pay raise later this year, but that won’t happen without local school district approval.
Last year, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) said there were about 4,000 teachers earning between $25,000 and $35,000 a year. Under the historic budget passed by lawmakers earlier this month, there is money for a pay raise — but only if districts opt into the program.
“The state understands the importance of investing in our children from birth through higher education,” said DESE Commissioner Margie Vandeven. “One of the most important budget proposals in our history for education.
The General Assembly approved the largest budget in state history on May 6, $49 billion. It includes $214 million to fully fund the transportation formula for schools, something that hasn’t been done since the 1990s.
“Clearly, transportation costs have increased significantly over the past year with diesel prices and employee pressure on wages,” DESE deputy commissioner Kari Monsees told the State Board last Tuesday. of Education. “This is one area where districts have really filled the void and are continuing to do so, and that will certainly help local budgets tremendously.”
Nearly a quarter of a billion dollars is being spent to raise the minimum teacher salary from $25,000 to $38,000.
“It’s a grant process. Districts will therefore have to apply for this, and when they do, we are also looking for some form of engagement at the district level,” Vandeven said. “If they apply for this grant, they will demonstrate that they are willing and able to pay 30% of this salary increase.”
The state would pay 70% of the increase and the rest is up to the district, but the money is only available to schools where teachers currently earn less than $38,000. There’s also $37 million for the Career Ladder program in the budget, which gives raises to experienced teachers. Under state law, teachers who earn professional credits, mentor students, or participate in extracurricular activities fall under the program.
There is also money in the budget to help children who are behind due to the pandemic. This is called “Bridging the Gap”. The program was not requested by DESE but was an idea of lawmakers, allocating $25 million to the project.
“Discussing with a number of legislators what they are trying to resolve, we are currently emerging from the pandemic. They see a real urgency in meeting the needs of our students, especially those most affected by this.
Vandeven said while DESE is still working on exactly how the program will work, it will give parents additional resources to help students.
“How does the department communicate these programs to schools and families? asked Kerry Casey, member of the State Board of Education.
“It will probably take us all summer to go through this process,” Monsees replied. “Some, we’ll prioritize getting out as soon as possible, like the teacher’s salary to get people up to $38,000.”
At the May monthly board meeting last Tuesday, some members questioned the large amounts of money allocated to certain topics, such as reading.
“My question is how and when will we know the effectiveness of this program? Board member Peter Herschend asked Vandeven. “When you talk about $25 million going into something, especially new money, when are we going to start hearing about the impact of that? Because I don’t just want to say, “Wow, we’ve got $25 million,” and that’s funding, and then we won’t hear about it.
Vandeven responded by saying that right now the department is waiting for the governor to approve the budget. DESE is therefore telling districts to proceed with caution until they are approved.
“We’re going to run an assessment of the reading to measure what’s going on and how quickly we can tell you that the direct impact of those dollars on that reading is probably a few years from now,” Vandeven said.
Higher education is also getting an increase in funding, with $10 million going to community colleges. In addition to the increase for community colleges, all higher education institutions received a funding increase of 5.4%, as well as additional funds for their pension plans.
This summer, the Blue Ribbon Commission is set to meet to discuss the growing educator recruitment and retention issues facing the state. The commission is due to meet in June and then submit a report to the State Board of Education in October.
The $49 billion budget is on the desk of the governor, who has until July 1 to approve the spending plan or veto it.