MO commission unveils plan to address urgent teacher shortage and low salaries

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Led by a Springfield business owner, the commission made immediate, short-term, and long-term proposals to the state Board of Education.

The final plan presented Tuesday by Missouri’s Blue Ribbon Commission for Teacher Recruitment and Retention is aggressive and costly — but advocates say changes are needed.

Mark Walker, a Springfield business owner who chaired the months-long process, presented the plan to the Missouri Board of Education. He called the nine-step plan an initial phase.

“We have to meet some immediate needs,” he said. “If we don’t tackle the disparity in teacher salaries first, we probably won’t get climate and culture a fighting chance.”

The 22-member commission urged the state to raise Missouri’s minimum teacher salary to “at least” $38,000 and review the rate annually. In state law, the minimum is $25,000, although many districts pay more.

“We can’t fall behind again, like we did, and catch up. It’s just not healthy,” Walker said. “Recognizing that there are many factors that influence retention and recruitment, the commission believes this is an important first step.

After:In Springfield Public Schools, 257 teachers quit last year. Most were resignations.

The commission made immediate, short-term and long-term recommendations. In all, five addressed teacher compensation in one form or another. They understand:

  • Increase the salary of new teachers;
  • Prioritize annual funding for the Career Ladder program, which rewards teachers who take on extra work;
  • Create a fund to help districts improve teacher compensation;
  • Wage supplements to fill high-need positions;
  • Salary supplements for teachers with National Council certification.

The other four recommendations include:

  • Establish sustainable funding for Grow Your Own programs;
  • Encourage districts to implement team teaching models;
  • Increase mental health support for teachers;
  • Provide tuition assistance.

Why teacher compensation is important

At the start of 2020-21, the state’s average starting teacher salary of $32,970 ranked 50th in the county. That year, nearly 8% of full-time teaching positions in the state were either vacant or filled by people who were not fully qualified.

Public schools across the state have struggled to recruit and retain enough teachers, leading to shortages in critical hiring areas and very poor or resource-constrained schools.

“Teachers are critical, not just to student success, but to the success of the state as a whole. The strength of Missouri’s teaching workforce has a direct impact on the strength of economic development and the Missouri’s quality of life,” said Walker, president and CEO of trucking company Transland.

“All of us in business receive the products that come from it. We get it. We live with it. It’s an investment that we all need to realize is important.”

Charlie Shields, chairman of the state board, said the quality of public schools is directly tied to the health of the state’s economy.

“The quality of the education system depends heavily on having a qualified and competent teacher in front of every class and that’s what it’s all about,” said Shields, who has attended the commission’s meetings.

After:Despite historic increases, inflation is outpacing the wages of Springfield School District workers and teachers

The Council of State unanimously accepted the commission’s report. In the coming months, state officials and commission members will host a series of meetings across the state.

“I look forward to pulling this off and sharing it with the citizens of Missouri and then ultimately with the Legislature and our legislative partners to make this happen,” Shields said. “I’m confident we can do some of these things and I think our education system will be better for it.”

In partnership with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the state board and commission will work on a legislative platform related to the report. It will also outline the next steps.

“Today is a great day for our state,” said Margie Vandeven, Missouri Board of Education.

She said that with the recommendations in hand, it is time for DESE to get to work.

“The Commission’s business leaders, legislators and educators took their work seriously, and we appreciate their diligence and thoughtfulness in crafting these recommendations,” Vandeven said in a press release. “Now is the time for the entire state to come together to find long-term solutions to raise teacher salaries.”

How much could the plan cost?

The commission worked with the Hunt Institute to develop cost estimates for many of the recommendations, and the amounts were included in the final report.

For example, given that nearly 8,000 teachers earned less than $38,000 in the 2021-22 school year, the cost of raising that minimum wage to that level is $29.5 million, including related benefits.

The cost of expanding the Career Ladder program, which rewards teachers for extra work, is estimated at $56.2 million per year, depending on attendance.

To add more Grow Your Own program is estimated at $5 million. Tuition support for 100 teachers over a four-year period will cost approximately $5.8 million.

For 1,000 teachers with a National Board certification, it is expected to cost the state $3.4 million.

The final report says there are proposals, such as increased mental health support and the team teaching model, that don’t have a specific budget note.

No estimates were provided for supplementing salaries for high-needs positions, noting that costs are expected to vary widely depending on state support and school interest in implementation.

The commission noted that there was a need to make teachers’ salaries more competitive over time, but that would be expensive. For example, with approximately 70,000 teachers employed in the state, an average increase of $1,000 per teacher will cost $81.2 million once associated benefits are included.

“Each recommendation comes with a tax impact analysis that DESE helped create for us, so you’ll get an idea of ​​what it looks like,” Walker told the state board. “The actual implementation of that, the funding, that’s sort of going to be on your plate. You all decide when ultimately and what will work legislatively in what year.”

Three state council members constituted and served on the commission: Mary Schrag, of West Plains; Don Claycomb, of Linn; and Kim Bailey of Raymore.

Schrag said preparatory work for the commission began a year ago. Members met between June and September but agreed to serve until May 31.

They will be part of eight public meetings including one next month in Nixa.

With the support of the State Council on Tuesday, the next step for the commission is to present a list of legislative proposals in mid-December.

“We know that teaching is the foundation of everything we do in a company and we want to attract and retain talent,” Schrag said.

“If we are able to attract talent and retain these high quality teachers, our children will be even more competitive at the national level and they will continue to excel.”

Want to go?

The State Board of Education, in conjunction with the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Blue Ribbon Commission, will host public engagement meetings throughout Missouri.

That of the Ozarks will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 16 at Nixa Junior High, 205 North St. in Nixa. Meetings are open to the public.

Claudette Riley covers education for the News-Leader. Email tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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