Missouri governor: Can’t fill the gap if you’re dead last in teacher pay

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Teachers in Missouri have the lowest starting salary in the country and Gov. Mike Parson wants to give some of those educators a $13,000 raise, but it needs approval from lawmakers.

The Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) said the state’s current teacher salary is “devaluing” the profession. In December, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) said there are 4,000 teachers in Missouri making $25,000 and $35,000 a year.

Earlier this year in his State of the State address, Parson recommended lawmakers raise the starting teacher pay to $38,000.

Besides working to increase pay, the governor also told members at an MSBA event in the Capitol Monday, he’s proud of educators for what they’ve done over the last two years, but some have overstepped their boundaries.

“I have to trust you to do your jobs at the local level and I do and hopefully I’ve proven to you over the same time as governor that I support your decisions,” Parson told local educators. “I had to leave those decisions up to you at the local levels because I believe you knew what’s best and I do believe parents know what’s best.”

Earlier this school year, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, also a US Senate candidate, sued dozens of schools over mask mandates. In an interview after his speech, Parson said some districts abused their power.

“Every time we’ve ever said we’ve tried to leave it up to the local levels as much as possible, that doesn’t mean that system is perfect all the time,” Parson said. “Sometimes you have to step if they exercise may be more powerful than they should from that local level.”

After navigating COVID-19 the last two years, it’s no surprise to Missouri’s top educators the pandemic resulted in declining test scores in all subjects and grade levels.

“Those parents should be concerned,” Parson said. “Look, we’ve come through a pandemic, but you’re going to have to figure out how you’re going to make that education up.”

Executive director of MSBA Melissa Randol said test scores do not define the education Missouri students received.

“I would not focus all of my attention on that test score because it does not give a well-rounded picture or understanding of what’s going on in our public schools,” Randol said. “Our kids are resilient, and our educators are resilient. You could not have experienced what they’ve experienced the last two years.”

Schools in Missouri closed in the spring of 2020, meaning standardized testing didn’t happen. Some schools reopened their doors for in-person learning in the fall of 2020 while others stayed virtual or offered hybrid learning.

Last spring, 90% of students in Missouri’s K-12 public schools participated in the test. That percentage is less than in previous years.

The tests show only 45% of students are proficient or advanced in English Language Arts, dropping four points from 2019. Students dropped seven points in math, the biggest drop-off, from 42% to 35%.

And in science, 37% tested proficient or advanced in 2021 compared to 42% in 2019. Elementary students declined the most and the biggest decrease in learning was Algebra 1.

The smallest decrease was in English in fourth and eighth grade and eighth-grade math.

The last time Missouri teachers received a raise from lawmakers in Jefferson City was in 2006.

The starting salary for teachers in the Show-Me State is $25,000, the lowest in the country according to the National Education Association (NEA) and nearly 20% under the national average.

Randol said in order for kids to continue to learn, the state needs good teachers, but that’s not easy with the current pay wage.

“When we’re the lowest starting salary in the country, that’s not okay,” Randol said. “It makes it very difficult for us to recruit and retain great teachers, but it also devalues ​​the profession. It’s very disappointing to those individuals who have given their lives and focused on their careers on serving our children, our most important assets in all of our communities.”

Speaking to a rotunda full of educators, Parson told administrators the state is going to help pay for these pay raises.

“You can’t fill that gap if you’re dead last in the United States on teacher salary,” Parson said. “If you haven’t done the numbers on it, you break that down a little farther and $25,000 a year, that’s $12 an hour we’re paying teachers.”

Randol said broadband access also needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

“It’s not just about laying the fiber or providing the access but it’s also about affordability for our families,” Randol said. “It’s not okay for our kids, even when they are receiving most of their curriculum in an in-person setting, you still need that service.”

Parson said Missouri was 5th in the country for having students inside the classroom during the pandemic.

In order for the state to increase educator pay, lawmakers must approve it before the session ends in May.

According to NEA, Missouri’s average salary is $50,817, which ranks 45th in the nation.

Here’s a look at teachers’ salaries in neighboring states:

Arkansas:

  • Starting salary: $35,201 – 49th in the nation
  • Average salary: $50,457 – 47th in the nation

Iowa:

  • Starting salary: $37,992 – 35th in the nation
  • Average salary: $54,096 – 34th in the nation

Kansas:

  • Starting salary: $38,314 – 33rd in the nation
  • Average salary: $51,320 – 44th in the nation

Illinois:

  • Starting salary: $40,484 – 22nd in the nation
  • Average salary: $68,083 – 12th in the nation

Some legislators have previously argued the state’s pension system makes up for it since educators are required to contribute 14.5% and their employers match that, but the state’s top educator said teachers are leaving before they are eligible for the benefit.

Missouri has the highest contribution rate out of its surrounding states, according to TeacherPension.org.

Missouri:

  • Teachers’ contribution 14.5%
  • Employer matches that, 14.5%
  • Vesting period: 5 years

Illinois

  • Teachers’ contribution: 9.81%
  • Vesting period: 10 years

Arkansas

  • Teachers’ contribution: 6%
  • Vesting period: 5 years

Kansas

  • Teachers’ contribution: 6%
  • Vesting period: 5 years

Iowa

  • Teachers’ contribution: 6.2%
  • Vesting period: 7 years

Leave a Comment