There will be a raise for Missouri’s lowest-paid teachers this year for Teacher Appreciation Week.
Under a state budget that is nearing final approval, the state’s current $25,000 minimum salary will be increased to $38,000. Additionally, this is the first time in decades that the state’s share of school transportation funding has been fully funded, thanks to a compromise between House and Senate lawmakers on Wednesday morning.
For a total of $21 million, the raises are aimed at luring and keeping teachers in the state with the second-lowest average starting salary in the country.
The amount recommended by Gov. Mike Parson is in line with that amount, but $10 million less than the Senate had originally planned to include earlier in the legislative session.
It was suggested on Wednesday that the salary floor be lowered from the original $38,000 proposal to $34,000, a move that was supported by Parson and the Senate. Rusty Black of Chillicothe and Dirk Deaton of Noel, both Republican representatives from rural districts, expressed concern about the ability of schools in their area to sustain such an increase.
According to Deaton, “I am concerned that it might ultimately force consolidation” Among rural Missourians, “it’s a major issue.”
In the end, the original minimum of $38,000 remained — due in large part to a coalition of Democrats and two Republican senators from southwest Missouri.
Sens. Lincoln Hough of Springfield and Karla Eslinger of Wasola spoke against lowering the salary floor, urging lawmakers to make good on the governor’s initial proposal.
“I really and truly think we have to take a position and make a stand to make sure education is valued in our state, and the people providing that education are valued,” Eslinger said. “I think an opportunity to establish a baseline of ($38,000) is important, and that’s where I’m at.”
Both senators have strong ties to education. Hough’s father was the longtime dean of Missouri State University’s College of Education, and Eslinger has served as a teacher, superintendent and assistant commissioner within the state’s K-12 education department.
Hough said he wasn’t aware of the idea to drop the threshold to $34,000 previously.
“It’s not a distinction that I want for my state to have the lowest beginning teacher compensation in the nation,” he told the News-Leader. It was his contention that rural areas may benefit financially from transportation assistance.
Who, according to Hough, “should enable those rural districts that are diverting monies to put in their transportation lines.” “My goal is that they won’t have to do it anymore.”
It was also advocated by Springfield senator that “public K-12 institution” in Missouri build the state’s virtual education program. To enable “a larger range of suppliers to be able to bid” for the development contract, Hegeman proposed text on Wednesday that would have removed that provision.
I pushed and negotiated with our colleagues last year in the hopes that this would be preserved,” Hough added. Thus, “I would really appreciate it if they continued to support and retain the wording in keeping with that agreement.”
The program’s development will remain in the hands of public schools, as decided by lawmakers.
House and Senate Democrats alike spoke in support of maintaining the $38,000 threshold. Teachers who earn between $34,000 and $38,000 who would not get any raises as a consequence of the plan were voiced worry by Rep. Peter Merideth of St. Louis, who heads the House budget committee. On top of the $38,000 minimum, the $21 million budgeted might be left on the table if it is lowered.
There may not be a perfect solution to improving teacher compensation in this state, but this was a terrific beginning step, according to Springfield Democrat Rep. Betsy Fogle. However, she would want to see greater increases in order to maintain Missouri’s competitiveness with its neighboring states.
“Even if we raise that base rate to $38,000, we’re still not competitive with other states,” Fogle said. In addition, I’d want to ensure that we’re the employer of choice and not always the second option.
Teachers who choose to take part in extracurricular activities in the classroom may earn increases via the Career Ladder program, which is part of the state budget that goes into effect on July 1st, 2023, the start of a new fiscal year.
But Sen. Dan Hegeman, Cosby’s budget leader, cautioned that this may only be a once-in-a-decade occurrence due to a big state surplus and an unprecedented flow of federal funds.
Before it reaches the governor’s desk, the final version of the compromise budget will be voted on by each house. Friday is the constitutional deadline for the adoption of the budget by the legislative body.