Missouri teachers could see their salaries increase


In an empty classroom, Katherine Hendrix, a third-grade teacher at JA Rogers Elementary, virtually teaches students Wednesday, September 23, 2020, using a large screen.

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Missouri’s lowest-paid teachers will likely get a pay raise this year.

The state minimum wage for beginning teachers currently sits at $25,000, among the lowest in the country. That figure could rise to $38,000 as part of next year’s state budget that Gov. Mike Parson is due to sign off by Friday.

A joint committee of House and Senate members voted Wednesday to restore funding, intended to retain and recruit K-12 educators. Teacher compensation, which lags far behind national averages, was high on Parson’s agenda in his recommended budget. But previous spending plans approved by the House had reduced the governor’s recommendation.

Committee members also cemented Parson’s recommendations to fully fund Missouri’s share of school transportation costs for the first time in decades and pay for the state pension system.

Another highlight Wednesday was the committee’s decision to uphold a $500,000 cut to Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office. The Senate previously decided to withhold the money in response to Schmitt’s decision to sue dozens of districts earlier this year over COVID-19 mask mandates.

The increase in teacher pay, a compromise between lawmakers, comes as the state is on edge, thanks in large part to federal pandemic aid. Lawmakers have stressed the need to retain educators as the state experiences a critical teacher shortage exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and low salaries.

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden previously told reporters that the state’s starting salary is driving teachers out of the profession.

“You must really feel called to do this,” Rowden said last month. He said increasing state funding to retain teachers was “the right thing to do.”

According to a National Education Association teacher salary benchmark report, teachers in Missouri earn an average of $51,557 per year, which ranks them 47th in the nation. And the state is tied for last in the nation in starting salary for teachers, averaging $33,234.

The report found that insufficient pay was one of the main reasons school districts across the country struggled to retain teachers. An estimated 55% of teachers plan to leave the profession sooner than expected, according to the report.

Under the compromise budget, increasing teacher pay will cost the state about $31 million from its general revenue fund this fiscal year. The state will pay 70% of the costs and local school districts will pay the remaining 30%.

The state budget, which will allocate state funding beginning July 1, also adds $214 million to school transportation costs, $100 million more than the House budget version.

Once the joint committee approves the budget changes, it will go to each chamber for a final vote. If there is no change, he will go to the governor’s office. According to the Missouri Constitution, the budget must be approved by 6 p.m. Friday.

This story was originally published May 4, 2022 5:09 p.m.

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A Kansas City Star reporter covering Missouri government and politics, Kacen Bayless is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri with a major in investigative journalism. He previously covered projects and surveys on the South Carolina coast. In 2020, he received South Carolina’s highest honor for assertive journalism.

William M. Mayer